© 2004 Vince Flynn
"And if they manage to get this thing into Washington and end up killing the leaders of America, Great Britain, and Russia?"
Rapp shrugged. "At least there won't be any more ambivalence about the war on terror."
Suspicious activity from some shady financial institutions hints that something big is about to hit the United States, and an investigation -- followed by a black ops abduction job in Pakistan -- reveals the scheme. On Memorial Day, as the entire US government gathers with the leaders of Great Britain and Russia to christen a new World War 2 monument, militant jihadists intend to set off nuclear explosions along the eastern seaboard, beginning with D.C. Only Mitch Rapp, an assassin in the employ of the CIA, stands in their way.
Memorial Day is an early War on Terror action thriller that has little patience for those who view the Patriot Act as a threat to civil liberties, and features a main character who abducts jihadists not only from Pakistan, but from the Justice Department's own holding cells. He has no compunction against shooting terrorists to coerce confessions from their brain-besplattered comrades, or slipping a man a drug to make him terrified, then repeatedly holding him underwater. At least no one can say he murders in cold blood, because Rapp spends the entire book enraged. He's at war not only with every AK47-wielding beard in the middle east, but his own government, riven with softies. If he's not yelling or shooting at jihadists and politicians, he is on his way to do one of the two.
Memorial Day is an action movie in book form. The main character stands out because of his sheer bloodlust (he almost doesn't care if D.C. is turned into a radioactive crater, because it means the entire Arabian peninsula will be glass shortly thereafter), but no one else is worth paying attention to. If a character emerges who is sympathetic, they are immediately killed off -- like the poor Mexican truck driver who was hired to haul a trailer into Atlanta, never knowing that the mysterious trailer held an unstable radioactive core that was slowly poisoning him. All he wanted to do was make it home in time for his son's baseball game. Why do you hate baseball, terrorists? The villains are, as you might aspect from a book written so early after the 9/11 attacks, complete caricatures of the "They hate us for our freedoms" variety. They're seriously in the United States because its teenage girls wandering about in malls in skimpy outfits are dragging the world into a cesspit of moral decadence. Seems like fighting moral decadence in Riyadh would be easier on the gas. (The suggestion that the terrorists object to D.C.'s foreign policy is dismissed as blaming rape victims.)
In terms of sheer action, Memorial Day works very well: it opens with Chinooks deploying company of rangers in Pakistan, and later there's action on the high seas as various agencies try to intercept container ships, and towards the end we have car chases and even a boat chase. Flynn reveals several interesting technical details, like D.C.'s plan for continuity of government in the event of an attack, and the existence of a large Soviet nuclear testing range in Kazakhstan, where duds are literally just abandoned in the desert for any lunatic with a deathwish to dig up. (A New Jersey-sized field in Kazakhstan actually exists, but from what I've read, various international agencies were secretly cleaning the site all throughout the 2000s, with all detritus secured by 2012.) While the villains are wholly uninteresting, Flynn does admit for a little blowback: one of the attackers was formerly used by the CIA to fight the Russians invading Afghanistan, He also doesn't regard Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as reliable allies in the war of terror because the Saudis are in fact financing some of the extremist groups.
Memorial Day is a fun action thriller, though not a seriously interesting geopolitical one.
The Last Patriot, Brad Thor. A blend of this and The Da Vinco Code. Very silly.