Friday, February 3, 2023

‘The President Is Missing’ by James Patterson and Bill Clinton


“If there is nothing else to learn from history, it’s that from humans to animals, from the most primitive to the most civilized, most individuals want to be led. Take out the leader, and the rest of the pack panics.”

As I’ve mentioned before in this column, mystery/thriller novels are not my first pick of reading material. But since I was delightfully surprised by the Grisham novel I read, I decided to tackle another icon in the genre by picking up “The President Is Missing” by James Patterson and the enticing collaboration with former President Bill Clinton. I’m not sure I can say who was responsible for what parts in the book, but I can say that “The President is Missing” is a nice page-turner with some interesting plot twists.

The novel opens with President Jonathan Lincoln Duncan role-playing with staff as he prepares to testify to a House Select Committee intent on impeaching him. Then he receives a call from his daughter about an encounter she had in France with a mysterious woman. The woman urgently wants to meet with President Duncan. To prove the seriousness of her request, she uses a highly classified code word that Duncan’s daughter passes along to him. Believing the woman’s intentions are good, Duncan meets with her. Here she tells a frightening story of a potential cyber-attack being planned on the USA. The threat is so real and deadly that Duncan goes off the radar (i.e. “missing”) to learn more. Only a handful of people know the true whereabouts of Duncan and what he is trying to accomplish. Normally he would have some of the most intelligent resources available to help but there is a traitor in his inner circle so he has to go rogue. While Duncan tries to determine who the traitor is, he’s also trying to avoid being assassinated and figure out how to counter the virus that has already been sent to every critical server and computer system in the country. All this underground, while political opponents seize upon his disappearance as a way to take control.

The premise is definitely in thriller territory and I could visualize how this would play out in a movie. Actually, it’s one of the few times I think a movie may be more exciting than the book! I got a bit bogged down in all the political rhetoric and the final chapter is quite preachy. I like to read to escape the world at large not be thrown into it. Besides, crashes and explosions just don’t play off as well on paper as on the big screen. (Interestingly, Showtime has reportedly acquired the rights to the book and is expected to make a series out of it). But having said all of that there are some fascinating insights into the inner workings of the government at the highest levels, info I assumed came from Clinton.

It would be easy to correlate the fictional President Duncan with the real President Clinton and there are a surprisingly large number of reviews that talk more about that than the book itself. Unlike those reviews, my goal wasn’t to come away with a critique on Clinton or his Presidency but rather to see if the book was a good political thriller/mystery. And all-in-all, it was. The tension was present and the storyline believable. “The President Is Missing” may not have changed my mind on the genre, but it did provide a quick, stimulating read. And really, there’s nothing wrong with that!

Thank you for reading – Happy New Year!

Lynn Alexander is a recently published author and long-time book, food, cat and college football lover (Go Green!). Her career journey started in upstate New York, writing and recording commercials for radio. She moved to Venice, Florida to manage a restaurant which led her to Naples and Marco in 2002, where she currently books weddings and events for a local resort. Alexander is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum which fed her passion for history and learning. A butterfly at parties but a loner at heart, she loves nothing more than baking yummy desserts then retreating to a quiet corner to read.

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