Have you read, or were you still planning to read, The President is Missing (DB 91164) by Bill Clinton and James Patterson as a fun summer vacation page-turner? It’s been touted as this summer’s must-read thriller. I think the book fails on most fronts. For a thriller to be effective, there has to be some basis in reality. That creates tension. Certainly cyber warfare is a real threat to the nation, constant vigilance against international terrorism is necessary and political machinations in Washington are always present. But the plot of The President is Missing strays so far from reality that, even with a reasonable, good-natured suspension of disbelief, the events of the story approach the absurd. Would you believe the fictitious President Jonathan Duncan successfully dons a disguise in a public place (it’s all in the eyebrows) and shoots his way out of an ambush outside a baseball park? Would you believe a (pregnant) Superassassin and a band of professional thugs are able to penetrate the Presidential retreat simultaneously? And would you believe said President single-handedly prevents an evil cyber-terrorist from catapulting America into the Dark Ages (the code word is in fact “Dark Ages”) and simultaneously outs a treasonous plotter from his inner circle (all of this within 24 hours)? Then possibly this book is for you.
Having not read James Patterson before, I’m not sure who is to blame. My guess is an over-sized presidential ego is at work. Personally, I was just planning on having a fun time with this book, so being lectured by Bill Clinton’s alter-ego about tribal politics, election reform, climate change, defense spending, the opioid crisis, etc. is decidedly not fun. The seemingly omnipotent President Duncan’s overlong address to Congress summing up the entire affair, is clearly a vehicle for President Clinton to sermonize on a long list of political topics, and is a tedious postscript to an action-oriented story.
One of the great disappointments about this book for me personally was that I was able to guess the identity of the treasonous insider halfway through the story. Because this is completely unlike me (I never can figure out whodunit in mysteries, which is why I seldom read them), I strongly suspect that the reader was intended to figure out this plot twist early on, which makes me feel resentful rather than clever.
If you’re still looking for a fun summer read, and are willing to suspend all disbelief, The President is Missing is still a fast-paced page-turner. Maybe, like me, you forked over $30.00 for a good beach read. Maybe you won’t be as irritated as I was about the ridiculousness of it all.