The first time I saw “The President is Missing,” I was at the airport buying a pair of headphones for a three hour flight. My initial thought was, “How does this book even exist?” I had read half of a James Patterson book, and I knew Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States of America and that he did,in fact, have sexual relations with that woman, but how did these two end up writing a novel together? There was something I found utterly hysterical about the existence of this book.
“The President is Missing” takes place over three days, focusing on the president—a man named Jonathan Duncan—who is in the middle of trying to save his presidency, the U.S. and the world. He must challenge the ones trying to take him down and protect one of the people trying to cause the most amount of harm to his country.
Patterson has been writing longer than I’ve been alive and it’s clear why people enjoy his work. It’s readable, paints tangible images in your mind and keeps you interested. The very first page grabs your attention with a metaphor comparing sharks to politicians grilling a man he deems right for his people in front of the entire world. The plot has many layers and bounces between perspectives, which moves things along nicely. Some of the best parts are when Duncan faces difficult decisions and we have to go through his process of making a choice with him and his staff.
Even though the book is clearly a political thriller, I didn’t know what to expect going into the novel. Was it going to be some secret way for Clinton to let out frustrations of his presidency? Was there going to be subtle commentary on the political climate of today, in a post-’bama world? Or, is the novel just a fun, dramatic tale with no real hidden bias (though, I think we all can guess that wouldn’t happen)?
One thing that is clear is that this isn’t Bill Clinton’s personal diary. Yes, we do see the difficulties of being in charge of millions of people’s lives, but in nothing less than the most dramatic sense. It’s clear that Clinton and Patterson don’t want us to think about Clinton when we read through the eyes of Jon Duncan, but we can’t help but hear Clinton’s voice when the books goes into its not-so-subtle social and political commentary. Stuff like, “what happened to factual, down-the-middle reporting?” (which I try not to be too hurt by) and “we’re using modern technology to revert to primitive kinds of human relations.” If Clinton’s name wasn’t smack at the top of book jacket (and his signature engraved underneath it), it wouldn’t feel like as much of a statement. Putting aside the questionable amount that he was actually involved in the writing process (it was ghost written by David Ellis), I certainly believe that he was involved with this book more than people might give him credit for.
Overall, “The President is Missing” was a delightful surprise. It’s not marketed towards teens, so maybe you aren’t drawn to it unless you’re a total nerd like myself. Sometimes the political terms can be a little confusing if you’re unfamiliar, but this was enjoyable. There is a decent amount of filler that can deter you from continuing, yet nothing unbearable. And while I unfortunately have not read many thrillers in the past, I can say this book certainly pushes me to want to change that.