If you’re feeling festive this Presidents’ Day and looking for a fun, action-packed novel to sink your teeth into, we’ve got you covered! Check out these ten awesome political thrillers, each of which features strong fictional American leader, and make your Presidents’ Day awesome!
Executive Orders by Tom Clancy
“The President is dead–and the weight, literally, of the world falls on Jack Ryan’s shoulders, in Tom Clancy’s newest and most extraordinary novel.
I don’t know what to do. Where’s the manual, the training course, for this job? Whom do I ask? Where do I go?
Debt of Honor ended with Tom Clancy’s most shocking conclusion ever; a joint session of Congress destroyed, the President dead, most of the Cabinet and the Congress dead, the Supreme Court and the Joint Chiefs likewise. Dazed and confused, the man who only minutes before had been confirmed as the new Vice-President of the United States is told that he is now President.
President John Patrick Ryan.
And that is where Executive Orders begins. Ryan had agreed to accept the vice-presidency only as a caretaker for a year, and now, suddenly an incalculable weight has fallen on his shoulders. How do you run a government without a government? Where do you even begin? With stunning force, Ryan’s responsibilities crush on him. He must calm an anxious and grieving nation, allay the skepticism of the world’s leaders, conduct a swift investigation of the tragedy, and arrange a massive state funeral–all while attempting to reconstitute a Cabinet and a Congress with the greatest possible speed.
But that is not all. Many eyes are on him now, and many of them are unfriendly. In Beijing, Tehran, and other world capitals, including Washington D.C., there are those eager to take advantage where they may, some of whom bear a deep animus toward the United States–some of whom, from Ryan’s past, harbor intense animosity toward the new President himself. Soon they will begin to move on their opportunities; soon they will present Jack Ryan with a crisis so big even he cannot imagine it.”
Why we picked it: Long before Kiefer Sutherland was staring in the hit television show Designated Survivor, Tom Clancy wrote a thriller about terrorists taking out the Capitol building, killing the president along with most of his cabinet and congress. You know how they always say “the book is better than the movie,” well, it’s true. In this case, it’s better than the TV show. Jack Ryan is suddenly the president, and is tasked with rebuilding a working government while America is one step away from a major war. It’s a thrilling ride from one of the best authors to ever write heart-pounding political thrillers.
Protect And Defend by Vince Flynn
“No longer willing to wait for the international community to stop its neighboring enemy, Israel brings down Iran’s billion-dollar nuclear program in an ingeniously conceived operation. The attack leaves a radioactive tomb and environmental disaster in its wake, and has Iranian president Amatullah calling for blood—American blood. Seeing opportunity where others fear reprisals, Mitch Rapp devises a brilliant plan to humiliate Iran’s government and push the nation to the brink of revolution. But when a back-channel meeting between CIA director Irene Kennedy and her Iranian counterpart goes disastrously wrong, Rapp is locked in a showdown with a Hezbollah mastermind in league with Amatullah—and he is given twenty-four hours to do whatever it takes to stop unthinkable catastrophe.”
Why we picked it: Twice in Mitch Rapp’s career, terrorists made the mistake of coming after women he loves. The first time was in Consent To Kill when his wife was targeted. In that book, President Hayes, who had a long history with Rapp, gave Mitch his consent to hunt down those responsible and kill them. In Protect and Defend, though, there’s a new president in office. Just one book prior (in Act Of Treason) President Josh Alexander was sworn into office, and it doesn’t take long for him to get acquainted with Rapp. Hayes was a fan-favorite character, but Alexander proves himself quickly when CIA Director Irene Kennedy, Rapp’s closest friend in the world, is kidnapped. After Rapp goes overboard while interrogating several suspects, the intelligence world fears Mitch will get them all in trouble with his actions. Those fears go out the window when President Alexander calls Rapp himself, personally instructing him to do whatever it takes to get Kennedy back!
The Lions of Lucerne by Brad Thor
“On the snow-covered slopes of Utah, the President of the United States has been kidnapped and his Secret Service detail massacred. Only one agent has survived—ex-Navy SEAL Scot Harvath. He doesn’t buy the official line that Middle Eastern terrorists are behind the attack and begins his own campaign to find the truth and exact revenge. But now, framed for murder by a sinister cabal, Harvath takes his fight to the towering mountains of Switzerland—and joins forces with beautiful Claudia Mueller of the Swiss Federal Attorney’s Office. Together they must brave the subzero temperatures and sheer heights of treacherous Mount Pilatus—where their only chance for survival lies inside the den of the most lethal team of professional killers the world has ever known…”
Why we picked it: When the president is kidnapped, Scot Harvath makes it his personal mission to get back his Commander-in-Chief. But the reason we applaud President Jack Rutledge in this book, is because he never wavers in his bravery and commitment to America. Forget about getting him to talk and give up state secrets. And don’t, for a second, think you’re going to see him act afraid. Nope, Rutledge is tough as nails and stays presidential throughout the entire ordeal, giving Harvath time to, hopefully, mount a rescue mission to come save him. This was the book that catapulted Thor to the top of the genre alongside Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, and Daniel Silva. Once you start it, there’s no stopping.
The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer
“Beecher White, a young archivist, spends his days working with the most important documents of the U.S. government. He has always been the keeper of other people’s stories, never a part of the story himself…
When Clementine Kaye, Beecher’s first childhood crush, shows up at the National Archives asking for his help tracking down her long-lost father, Beecher tries to impress her by showing her the secret vault where the President of the United States privately reviews classified documents. After they accidentally happen upon a priceless artifact – a 200 hundred-year-old dictionary that once belonged to George Washington, hidden underneath a desk chair, Beecher and Clementine find themselves suddenly entangled in a web of deception, conspiracy, and murder.
Soon a man is dead, and Beecher is on the run as he races to learn the truth behind this mysterious national treasure. His search will lead him to discover a coded and ingenious puzzle that conceals a disturbing secret from the founding of our nation. It is a secret, Beecher soon discovers, that some believe is worth killing for.
Gripping, fast-paced, and filled with the fascinating historical detail for which he is famous, THE INNER CIRCLE is a thrilling novel that showcases a brilliant author writing at the height of his craft.”
Why we picked it: You won’t find another thriller author who knows more about the inner workings of Washington than Brad Meltzer. As host of the television shows Brad Meltzer’s Decoded and Lost History, both of which aired on the History channel, Meltzer has made a career out of uncovering secrets and lost historical artifacts. So when he began a new series (beginning with this book) about an archivist who, through a series of unfortunate events, is exposed to the Culper Ring, you knew it was going to be good. Indeed, Meltzer doesn’t disappoint, churning out a high-stakes thriller that sheds light on the president’s personal spy ring.
First Strike by Ben Coes
“Deep within the Pentagon, a covert, multi-billion arms-for-influence program was created. The objective was to protect the United States and its allies from terrorist acts by secretly enabling a hand-picked man to emerge as the most powerful leader in the Middle East. But the charismatic Tristan Nazir double-crosses America, twisting the program for his own violent ends to create ISIS. Now America is at great risk.
Elite operative Dewey Andreas is sent to Syria to retrieve details about the source of ISIS’s funding but his cover is blown mid-operation and chaos erupts in the streets of Damascus. Trapped and outnumbered, Dewey manages to send proof of the awful truth―unknown at even the highest levels in the government―that ISIS’s munitions were indeed provided by America itself.
This information arrives in time to for the U.S. to cut off a final arms shipment before it reaches ISIS. But the vicious Nazir, is far from finished. He launches a bold strike into the heart of America, sending a terrorist cell to take over a dorm at Columbia University, capturing hundreds of college students as hostages. For every hour that the shipment of weapons is withheld, the terrorists will publicly execute one student. The potential loss of life is intolerable. A frontal assault is impossible. Releasing the shipment is unthinkable. There is nowhere to turn…
In a situation with no solutions, there remains only one option―Dewey Andreas.”
Why we picked it: You’d be hard-pressed to find a more explosive, action-packed and adrenaline-pumping political thriller than Ben Coes’ First Strike. Honestly, First Strike should be on any must-read list, but we picked it for this one because of the strong portrayal of the American President who, though he’s faced with a major crisis, keeps his cool while refusing to give in to terrorists’ demands. Instead, President Dellenbaugh goes on offense, personally instructing Dewey Andreas to go save the day.
Ghosts of War by Brad Taylor
“The Taskforce has stopped countless terrorist threats across the globe, operating outside of US law to prevent the death of innocents. But now, along the fault lines of the old Iron Curtain, the danger is far greater than a single attack. With Russia expanding its influence from Syria to the Baltic States, the Taskforce is placed on stand-down because of the actions of one rogue operator.
Meanwhile, Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill travel to Poland, hired to verify artifacts hidden for decades in a fabled Nazi gold train, only to find themselves caught amid growing tensions between East and West. A Russian incursion into Belarus under the facade of self-defense is trumped by a horrific attack against the United States, driving NATO to mobilize even as it tries to determine who is behind the strike.
On the brink of war, Pike and Jennifer discover that there is a separate agenda in play, one determined to force a showdown between NATO and Russia. With time running out, and America demanding vengeance, Pike and Jennifer race to unravel the mystery before a point of no return is reached. Unbeknownst to them, there is another attack on the way.
One that will guarantee World War III.”
Why we picked it: We have to be careful with this one, as explaining why Taylor’s Ghost of War made this particular list would be quite a spoiler. Let’s just say, in the midst of all the nonstop action, something happens that causes the president to find himself in an impossible situation. While Pike Logan and the rest of the Taskforce are definitely the stars, Taylor’s fictional president plays a critical role in the plot, and he plays it to perfection!
Warriors by Ted Bell
“Five years ago a brilliant American scientist, well known in high-tech military circles, suddenly disappeared without a trace off the streets of Washington, DC.
Now a professor at Cambridge University is murdered, a victim of bizarre, ancient Chinese torture methods. Counterspy Alex Hawke teams with former Scotland Yard chief inspector Ambrose Congreve to find the killer, but they soon discover that this death is merely the opening gambit in a tense and lethal game of geopolitical brinkmanship.
In the United States, the president is behaving erratically and some begin to question his fitness for leadership as hostile exchanges and new technologies ramp up tensions between China, North Korea, and the United States—threatening western military superiority.
With the situation edging closer and closer to the abyss, Hawke must face down a superb Chinese assassin and pull off his most daring mission yet: infiltrate enemy territory and neutralize their advantage . . . or risk the outbreak of World War III.”
Why we picked it: Similar to our explanation for Brad Taylor’s Ghosts of War, we have to be very careful explaining why Bell’s eighth Alex Hawke novel makes this particular list. Explaining exactly why the president has such an important role in this book would require us to reveal a major spoiler which, obviously we aren’t going to do. Let’s just leave it at something happens to the president that both shakes Washington, and directly impacts Alex Hawke who is in the middle of a dangerous mission when the news breaks. Beyond that, Warriors is a must-read for political thriller fans who love lots of action, a smart plot, and an unstoppable hero capable of breathtaking violence.
The 14th Colony by Steve Berry
“What happens if both the president and vice-president-elect die before taking the oath of office? The answer is far from certain―in fact, what follows would be nothing short of total political chaos.
Shot down over Siberia, ex-Justice Department agent Cotton Malone is forced into a fight for survival against Aleksandr Zorin, a man whose loyalty to the former Soviet Union has festered for decades into an intense hatred of the United States.
Before escaping, Malone learns that Zorin and another ex-KGB officer, this one a sleeper still embedded in the West, are headed overseas to Washington D.C. Noon on January 20th―Inauguration Day―is only hours away. A flaw in the Constitution, and an even more flawed presidential succession act, have opened the door to disaster and Zorin intends to exploit both weaknesses to their fullest.
Armed with a weapon leftover from the Cold War, one long thought to be just a myth, Zorin plans to attack. He’s aided by a shocking secret hidden in the archives of America’s oldest fraternal organization―the Society of Cincinnati―a group that once lent out its military savvy to presidents, including helping to formulate three invasion plans of what was intended to be America’s 14th colony―Canada.
In a race against the clock that starts in the frozen extremes of Russia and ultimately ends at the White House itself, Malone must not only battle Zorin, he must also confront a crippling fear that he’s long denied, but which now jeopardizes everything. Steve Berry’s trademark mix of history and speculation is all here in this provocative new thriller.“
Why we picked it: Steve Berry writes historical fiction into his modern thrillers better than anyone. In fact, he’s made a career out of it. His Cotton Malone series is fantastic, and last year’s novel, The 14th Colony, was one of his best books yet. Have you ever wondered what would happen in the president-elect and vice-president-elect were killed before they could take the oath of office? Well, you can find the answer to that question in Berry’s novel, along with a fun opening flashback scene where Ronald Reagan meets secretly with wth Pope.
By Order of the President by W.E.B. Griffin
“When a leased Boeing 727 is violently hijacked from Angola and flown to parts unknown, the President turns to an outsider—Major Carlos Guillermo Castillo—for answers. A pilot, West Point graduate, and veteran of Desert Storm, Castillo has a sharp eye for the facts—and the truth behind them. In Africa, he is helped and hindered by unexpected allies and ruthless enemies, and begins to untangle a plot of horrific dimensions—a plot that, unless Castillo acts quickly, will end very, very badly.”
Why we picked it: So, when the going gets tough, and America needs answers right now, don’t we all (at least while reading these fictional novels) want a president who is unafraid to get his hands dirty and take action? Well, In W.E.B. Griffin’s By Order of the President, we get exactly that. With America’s safety on the line, the president is unflinching in his decision to task Carlos Castillo with finding answers and getting to the bottom of the things. I will add, however, that this book is very long and Griffin provides Clancy-like descriptions (which means they’re long and drawn out) rather than trusting the reader to fill in common sense blanks. It’s a wordy political thriller, so know that going into it, but the plot is entertaining.
Drone Threat by Mike Maden
“On the eve of President Lane’s historic Asian Security Summit, a hobby-store quadcopter lands on the White House lawn carrying a package and an ominous threat: Fly the enclosed black flag of ISIS over the White House by noon today or suffer the consequences. The threat further promises that every day the flag isn’t flown a new attack will be launched, each deadlier than the first.
President Lane refuses to comply with the outrageous demand, but the first drone attacks, sending a shudder through the U.S. economy. With few options available and even fewer clues, President Lane unleashes Troy Pearce and his Drone Command team to find and stop the untraceable source of the destabilizing attacks. But the terror mastermind proves more elusive and vindictive than any opponent Pearce has faced before . . . and if Pearce fails, the nation will suffer an unimaginable catastrophe on its soil or be forced into war.”
Why we picked it: In Drone Threat, the American president is on the cusp of hosting an Asain Security Summit when he receives a threat carried by a drone that landed on the White House lawn to deliver its message. Immediately, President Lane makes it known he will not give in to the terrorists’ demand that he raise the flag of ISIS over the White House, choosing instead to roll the ball against their threats in hopes that his newly formed Drone Command team can find and neutralize the threat. This book has it all, mixing a conspiracy-laden plot with action and cutting edge technology. Maden, who is very underrated as an author, brings his A-game with this one!