An interesting, substantial political thriller
The President Is Missing confronts a threat so huge that it jeopardizes not just Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street, but all of America. Uncertainty and fear grip the nation. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the Cabinet. Even the President himself becomes a suspect, and then he disappears from public view…
Set over the course of three days, The President Is Missing sheds a stunning light upon the inner workings and vulnerabilities of our nation. Filled with information that only a former Commander-in-Chief could know, this is the most authentic, terrifying novel to come along in many years.
There was a lot of buzz surrounding this novel before it was published. Understandable, of course, but I nevertheless somehow managed to leave it quite some time before reading. I’m very glad I did, though. This is an entertaining political thriller that should definitely appeal to fans of the (sub-)genre.
It has many of the hallmarks of a Patterson novel: fast-pace, exciting events and challenges to overcome. Unlike Patterson’s more-recent novels, however, this one feels a lot more substantial — more like his earlier Alex Cross novels, in fact. There are plenty of interesting details about the presidency and American politics, well-woven into the story.
There is a lot going on in this novel. This is mostly handled very well. It is the story of just one event in a presidency — albeit a pretty noteworthy one — and we get a glimpse of just how much can happen in any one day. Sure, this is an entertaining, exaggerated (I hope) example of what a President and his staff have to deal with. The machinations of political opponents, the myriad international and domestic considerations that need to be taken into account… International terrorists are involved, too, which adds a timely component to the novel as well. Clinton and Patterson do a good job of giving readers a pretty broad, and seemingly-realistic view of how a situation like the one in the novel might be handled (in a practical sense).
Well, except for the part when the president goes missing… That is a very Hollywood section of the novel. It’s well-done and engaging, though, and I never struggled to keep reading. In fact, while reading The President is Missing, it was not hard to picture how a cinematic (or TV) adaptation might look and be done. The president isn’t an unrealistic hero, however, and his actions are still quite grounded. His protective detail, however, are pretty bad-ass and incredibly impressive.
There are certainly times when it is difficult to separate one of the authors from the events covered in the novel. For example, the novel opens with a Congressional hearing/deposition in which the President is grilled by hostile opponents. His internal thoughts are very… well, it’s not difficult to hear Clinton’s voice and frustrations, especially if you’ve spent time reading about and researching the Clinton presidency and US politics for any length of time. (The deposition is not about a White House intern, though.) This is, perhaps, inevitable when someone like President Clinton writes a novel. However, these concerns are relatively fleeting — it’s a long thriller, and events quickly move away from the purely political.
The president in this novel is a relentlessly good man. He ticks many boxes that one would hope for from an “ideal” (Democratic) president. The authors manage to not make this an issue, however, as the moments that made me think of this aren’t belaboured or over-done. His backstory is interesting, and he does come across as a genuinely decent guy. While I said it was sometimes difficult to separate President Clinton from President Duncan, the president he most brought to mind was President Bartlet from The West Wing, albeit a younger version — complete with medical condition that needs to be managed and sometimes overcome.
Overall, this was an entertaining thriller. I read it quite quickly, and there were plenty of interesting moments and observations sprinkled throughout the novel. There were a few red-herrings thrown into the mix, which were well-done.
Engaging, well-written and entertaining. Not sure we could ask for anything more. I doubt the two authors will work together again, but if they did I’d be among the first in line to read whatever they came up with.
The President is Missing is out now, published by Century (UK) and Little, Brown (US).
Follow the Author (Clinton): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author (Patterson): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
2 thoughts on “Quick Review: THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING by Bill Clinton & James Patterson (Little, Brown/Century)”
I was curious about this book and… I have to admit: Being politically active and well versed in the politics of the US made the book unintentionally hilarious on many levels for me. The whole Russia-thing, the character of President Duncan and the revelations at the end of the book… Wow, I laughed out loud when the “traitor” finally revealed the motivation for the whole conspiracy (I’m trying to keep it vague because for that alone you should read the book).
Well, at least, thanks to the “traitor”, we now know that there are some good things that may not be as good as we would like to think… And for Bill Clinton to be the author of that… Man, it has to be read to be believed.
On its own, the book is an okay airport-thriller, I think. But with all the circumstances surrounding this book (Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, 2016, issues like race and gender in the US, treatment of veterans etc.), I couldn’t help but get the feeling that this novel is like a story about yesteryear my grandpa concocted to impress me. It’s ripe with bitter righteousness and patronizing concern about the past and present. full of “But what if…”-fantasies and “Well, actually…”-trolling. If you know anything about the state of politics in the US today, there’s no insight to be found here except self-indulgent (almost biographical) commentary.
LikeLiked by 1 person
There is definitely a sense of presidential wish-fulfilment in the novel. (That’s been a theme I’ve seen in many other reviews of the book.) Given that it’s a Patterson novel, though, there was only so much pure-realism that could be included. The premise is, on its face, completely ridiculous. But, I thought it was entertaining. Which is really all I was expecting from JP.
The anti-climactic reveal at the end, too, was strangely “realistic” for me, because I don’t think there are many true bombshells in US politics. Petty personal agendas, etc., leading the way. (See, for example, McConnell, Ryan, Clinton, Trump, Sanders, etc., etc.)
“It’s ripe with bitter righteousness and patronizing concern about the past and present.” — agree with you here. Wouldn’t always go so far to say it’s “patronizing”. Maybe “impotent”, because there’s nothing presented that is even remotely a suggestion for how something might be addressed. Just, “We need to do better on this issue.” A bit vacuous.