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The President is Missing    by James Patterson & Bill Clinton order for
President is Missing
by James Patterson
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2018 (2018)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's an unusual new thriller with high profile authors - The President is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton. It's the perfect escapist read - just what's needed for those sickened by world political trends and continuing un-presidential antics - but also includes some thought provoking reflections on the current world order.

The novel opens with what seems a presidency in crisis, the Commander in Chief questioned by a House Select Committee. He's accused of protecting terrorists, in particular the leader of the Sons of Jihad, and of speaking on the phone to 'the most wanted terrorist in the world'. What is going on? Fortunately, this was only a mock session involving chief of staff Carolyn Brock, the president's oldest friend/White House counsel Danny Akers, and his senior adviser, Jenny Brickman. They have his back but fear impeachment.

The authors have set up a surprising premise, that in order to foil a terrifying - and imminent - cyber attack, the president has to meet alone with two jihadists, who claim to want to prevent it. As this meeting is set up, readers are introduced to a very talented (and pregnant) assassin, Bach, as she arrives at Reagan National - who is her target? Complicating matters even further, the authors give the president a fairly serious health problem, which he neglects because to deal with the crisis.

As always in a Patterson thriller, there's constant action, plenty of violence, and regular surprises (including a mole inside the White House, and a president in the wind). It's a race against time to prevent a devastating attack, Dark Ages, with a skilled assassin circling ever closer to POTUS - all highly improbable, but solidly entertaining.

Along the way, there's an interesting discussion about the threat of social media to democracy, given that 'emotion trumps evidence'; and of the media damage done by 'false equivalency' - 'when you find a mountain to expose in one person or party, you have to pick a molehill on the other side and make it into a mountain to avoid being accused of bias.'

Towards the end, this admirable U.S. President argues that 'Our democracy cannot survive its current downward drift into tribalism, extremism, and seething resentment.' The President is Missing is well worth reading, as much for its sociopolitical commentary as for its entertainment value.

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