A known fan of thrillers, Bill Clinton, the former American president, teamed up with America’s favorite author, James Patterson, to pen The President is Missing, a high-stakes political thriller rich with perspective one can only obtain from occupying the Oval Office.
President Jonathan Lincoln Duncan, a former war hero and POW, is facing impeachment when readers first meet him. The Speaker of the House is leading the charge against Duncan because the commander-in-chief personally contacted one of the most sought-after terrorists in the world.
Why would the president contact a known terrorist? Well, it turns out that a troubling cyber attack looms over the United States, and Duncan fears that if he doesn’t intervene personally, America could be sent back to the Stone Age. So, he takes on his enemies — including his political foes who’ve leveled charges against him — all at the same time, slaying naysayers and striving to stay one step ahead of everyone. Rather than sitting with his feet up on the Resolute desk and delegating orders, Duncan rolls up his sleeves and gets to work. . . which requires him to ditch his Secret Service detail and pursue leads all on his own.
Additionally, on top of everything else going on, Duncan, a widower, suspects there may be a traitor in the White House. That side plot provides a necessary shot of suspense that will keep readers on their toes — as multiple plausible suspects emerge in the middle of the crisis.
Told over the course of five days, readers follow Duncan, who narrates the book in first-person perspective, as he tries to safeguard the country he swore to protect and defend, both from threats foreign and domestic. . . no matter what.
Known for his short chapters and brisk pacing, Patterson has taken a slightly different approach with this one. Whether that’s due to the influence of Clinton or for some other unknown reason, early chapters are longer than Patterson typically opens with. While there are plenty of similarities between Clinton and the fictional President Duncan — both went to law school, they both have one daughter, they were each former governors before winning the White House, they were both impeached, etc. — the book itself doesn’t have a ton of behind-the-scenes details that one might expect thanks to Clinton’s involvement.
In fact, there’s probably more info about the inner workings of the White House in Vince Flynn’s Transfer of Power than in The President is Missing. To be fair, that’s likely more of a compliment to Flynn (of whom Clinton has publicly said to be a fan) than a knock on the former POTUS. Still, there are some intimate details, and Clinton’s influence is evident throughout, with Patterson’s natural storytelling ability lending itself nicely to the well-developed, but complicated, plot.
All that said, the book does tend to push a political agenda, which, given that the story is written in the voice of a sitting Democratic president by a former real-life former Democratic president, is decidedly left. That could be a real turnoff to conservative readers, who will likely disagree with the book’s overall message. The ending even features a long-winded speech from Duncan as he addresses Congress. Clinton’s supporters will likely cheer and join in with the fictitious characters handing Duncan a roaring applause at the book’s end, while those on the political right may find themselves slamming the hardcover shut halfway through the address.
The writing duo of Bill Clinton and James Patterson is an unprecedented dream-team that is, quite frankly, nearly too good to pass up. The President is Missing is fun, fast, and thoroughly entertaining. . . but it’s also a tad preachy and a bit over-the-top.
Author: Bill Clinton and James Patterson
Pages: 528 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company and Knopf
Release Date: June 4, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.