Updated: Sep 27, 2018
Well... this was different for me. I typically don't go for this type of novel, but I do enjoy other political dramas/thrillers like House of Cards and the like. Plus the premise really grabbed me, so I figured... what the hell?
This isn't my first time reading Patterson. I tried reading his young adult Maximum Ride series, but I just couldn't get into them. Part of the problem was his ridiculously short chapters that quite often break in the middle of a conversation to... I dunno... build tension? In Maximum Ride, that was enough to make me fling the book across the room. In The President Is Missing, however, it was enough to keep me turning pages. Even though having more than 100 chapters in a 500-page novel is a little ridiculous (and certainly pads the page count quite a bit if you know anything about book formatting), it does make it easy to pick up the book for a quick bathroom or bedtime read and then put it back down... that is unless the bastard ends the chapter on a cliffhanger as he often does.
Oooooh, Patterson... you crafty dog, you.
Now, of course, this book wasn't all Patterson. Some of the credit obviously goes to his illustrious co-author and former POTUS Bill Clinton. All of the pre-release promotional materials really made it sound as though Clinton was providing some insight... some secrets... that would set this book apart from other thrillers. Honestly, I didn't see any of that. It all seemed pretty run-of-the-mill political drama to me. Nothing taking place behind the walls of the White House or President Duncan's secret hideout in the woods offered anything we haven't seen before. I could have written that.
I'm sure, however, that President Clinton did offer some valuable insight into the stresses felt by a Commander in Chief in time of crisis, and we certainly feel the strain the book's protagonist feels as he makes some of the hardest decisions of his or any presidency.
As the book approached its climax, I began to see two endings: The first was the one Patterson wanted me to see. The second was the real one. Whether it's the writer's curse to have a deep-rooted understanding of how stories work, or if it's just an overused trope, I saw the ending coming. Does that make it a bad ending? No, absolutely not. It just means that the old magician's trick of misdirection didn't work on me. Maybe it worked on others. Hell, my wife hates watching movies with me because endings rarely take me by surprise, and when they do, I tend to stand up and cheer.
The one thing that really pissed me off about this book was Patterson's use of present tense, which was made worse by his use of first-person narrative for the protagonist and third-person for any other POV characters. That was jarring, and often pulled me out of the story and made me involuntarily put my editor hat on.
Overall, I enjoyed the book greatly, and I just might have to pick up some more of Patterson's work... so long as his use of present tense isn't standard across his other works. Lord knows my parents have enough of his books that I could borrow. The book ends on a high note, with a message of hope and cooperation to the American people that is sorely lacking in contemporary politics and, unfortunately, a bit unrealistic. But we can hope, right?
Overall rating: Four stars out of five. ****