The President is Missing
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Audible.com Release Date: June 4, 2018
Reviewed by: Dr. Wesley Britton
On so many levels, the powerhouse collaboration between best-selling novelist James Patterson and former President William Jefferson Clinton has ignited nearly every kind of possible critical response. Some readers nearly gush with effusive praise; other reviewers are far less kind, and not always for political reasons.
Some reader games would seem unavoidable. Guessing who wrote what is more than problematic, although I’m certain Clinton wrote both the first and last chapters. The first as it seems so much like Clinton’s own experiences during his impeachment hearings, the last as it reads like one of Clinton’s famously long speeches. To the chagrin of some readers,it’s a speech that touches on many issues not dealt with in the novel at all.
Another game is trying to decide how much of Clinton is captured in the character of President Jonathan Lincoln Duncan. Other reviewers have pointed out a handful of biographical similarities as well as major differences. Me, I read the book noticing the absence of any sex or romantic relationships. Was this a means of avoiding the smirks and/or guessing games of readers who’d want to connect Clinton’s erotic life with his fiction?
The fingerprints of James Patterson are evident throughout the bulk of the thriller. For one thing, the pace of the book is partly driven by his very short chapters that jump from scene to scene, from character to character in a rapid-fire delivery. Throughout, there are many very familiar tropes of the political thriller genre that are reminiscent of numerous authors, not just Patterson. For example, the rudder of the plot is a terrorist named Suliman Cindoruk who wants to activate a computer virus that will cripple the U.S. by erasing all internet data of the military, government, business, medical facilities, and infrastructure. In an often convoluted storyline, President Duncan believes he’s the only man who can meet with Abkhazian separatists to avert the catastrophe. That’s why the President is missing, although political opponents think he’s pulling a fast one to avoid impeachment hearings.
Typical of such novels, one fly in the ointment is a traitor at the very top echelons of the government. But who is the traitor? And why is the female sniper code-named Bach not assassinating world leaders when she has them in her sites, but instead shoots defectors from the terrorist ranks? And who is paying for all this carnage?
Part of the story focuses on discussions between Duncan and his advisors, part is action-oriented with shootouts, car crashes, Viper helicopters, and deadly infiltrations into secret government facilities. It’s either a pleasure or an annoyance to read so many red herrings in the book that lead to a number of very surprising reveals and conclusions in the final chapters.
I recommend reading the Hachette Audio edition of the book to hear the passages narrated by Dennis Quaid, January LaVoy, Peter Ganim, Jeremy Davidson, and Mozhan Marnó . It’s also interesting to hear the chapters focused on Bach read by a female reader and often spiced with musical backgrounds by the classical composers Bach is listening to while setting up her kill shots.
For my money, The President is Missing is a fun read occasionally laced with political observations no doubt offered by Clinton. Maybe some of these lectures will resonate with readers who don’t often listen to voices not coming from their political bent.
You can download the book for free and hear samples at various sites on the net, such as
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Sat. Aug. 11, 2018: