Synopsis: An unknown threat looms large over the United States. Uncertainty and fear grip Washington. There are whispers of cyberterrorism and espionage and a traitor in the cabinet. The President himself becomes a suspect, and then goes missing. (Adapted from Goodreads)
Themes Explored: cyberterrorism, politics, fiction, political thriller, mystery, terrorism, death, loss, high stakes parenting, espionage, grief, trust, betrayal, backstabbing, father daughter relationships.
Review: Funnily enough in order to write book reviews, one needs to read books. I finally finished one! Hence, a book review. Please try to contain your excitement.
The President is Missing deals with a turbulent three days in the life of U.S. President Jonathan Lincoln Duncan. He receives a threat from an unknown source with a threat of massive proportions. This thrusts President Duncan into a conundrum: tell the U.S. citizenry about the threat and cause widespread panic or neutralize the threat and deal with the repercussions later. Complications arise when Duncan discovers a traitor amongst his six closest allies. Who betrayed him? Can he save America from a threat so severe the nation may never recover? Join John McClane as he races to save the world from a dangerous villain. Wait, never mind this is not Die Hard. Join President Duncan as he wishes he were John McClane while he races against time to save America from a dangerous villain.
Duncan checks all the criteria of a Hollywood action hero: he is a former governor of an unnamed southern state, an Iraq War vet/POW, former army ranger, retired semi-professional baseball player, law school graduate, suffers from a debilitating blood disorder (he cannot be too perfect after all), and his (brilliant and beautiful) wife died of cancer. His female vice-president does not like being upstaged by her boss, who she describes as a “war hero with rugged good looks and a sharp sense of humor”. He can do no wrong, except for a hair trigger temper. However, he has a reason for his anger. The Speaker of the House wants to impeach him for no reason! No, not because he conducted a clandestine affair with a female intern, but because he spoke on the phone with Suliman Cindoruk, the world’s most wanted terrorist for-hire. Heaven forbid.
Obviously, only Duncan can save America from a cyberattack. This means slipping away from the Secret Service and meeting two foreign cyber terrorists at Nationals Park. These two cyber terrorist wannabes are having second thoughts about the virus they wrote for Cindoruk. Nicknamed “Dark Ages”, this modern threat will bring the US to its knees. All bank records will be wiped, the electricity grid will go down, water will cease running out faucets, air defenses will fail, Alexa will stop buying things on Amazon, and lots of lonely people will be unable to connect on Tinder. Whose behind this threat? Russia? China? North Korea? Someone else?
Like all good action heroes, the president sneaks out of the West Wing, disguises himself with makeup with the help of a famous actress, and then meets a mysterious person in the nosebleed section of Nationals Park. No wonder nothing gets done in Washington, the President is too busy foiling terrorist plots single handedly!
The title is rather misleading. Duncan never goes missing; he lies low for a bit and spends most of the narrative surrounded by his Secret Service security detail, other aides, and various officials. He narrates most of the book, which would not work if he actually disappeared.
A sexy, pregnant, female, vegetarian assassin named Bach stalks an unknown target throughout the book. She and Duncan eventually meet up during the last fourth of the novel. Do not worry, the President does not defeat her. He allows the Secret Service to take one for the team.
After some interesting but predictable twists, the novel ends with the president foiling the computer virus at the absolute last second and delivering an earnest televised address, where he promises to uphold every policy President Clinton ever supported. At regular intervals during the narrative, Duncan intersperses his action sequences with some folksy homilies regarding police shootings, race relations, gun control, and U.S. relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Other than the policy suggestions and the fact that a bowling alley is in the basement of the White House, I am unsure what exactly Clinton contributed to the narrative. I did notice that nearly all of President Duncan’s advisers, aides, and Cabinet Members are highly attractive women. Clinton must be daydreaming. Imagine Die Hard is actually a docu-series with John McClane as President and you have the entire character development of President Duncan and the plot of the novel. Duncan is the ultimate political maverick with the body and reflexes of a superhero, every politicians’ dream. If you have ever read a James Patterson novel or any kind of political thriller, The President is Missing does not hold many surprises. It is an interesting story but also so generic it is forgettable once you reach the end.
The President is Missing, 2018, Little, Brown and Company and Knopf, ISBN: 9780316412698