Berkshire Eagle Book Club

Our reviews: 'The President is Missing'


The book: "The President is Missing" by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company and Knopf; First Edition edition (June 4, 2018)

Synopsis: "The President Is Missing" confronts a threat so huge that it jeopardizes not just Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street, but all of America. Uncertainty and fear grip the nation. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the Cabinet. Even the President himself becomes a suspect, and then he disappears from public view. Set over the course of three days, "The President Is Missing" sheds a light upon the inner workings and vulnerabilities of our nation.

Reviews from the Book Club: 

When I was a sophomore in college, I saw former President Bill Clinton speak at a conference in Washington, D.C. He was charming, intelligent, well-spoken and as the evening wore on ... a bit long-winded. After reading his novel debut "The President Is Missing," a political thriller co-authored with novelist James Patterson, it's clear Clinton still isn't ready to stop shaking hands and leave the room on cue. There are moments — about half way through the more than 500-page tome — when Patterson's fast-paced, two-page chapters drew me in. But just as I was wondering who the mole in the White House was, the thrilling narrative would abruptly pause for what I can only imagine was Clinton's contribution of well-meaning, yet overly moralizing moments of self-reflection by the fictional President Duncan, who, by the way, never really goes missing. The book's publisher promised insider intel "only a former president would know," but most of the cyber attack lingo and definitions (which drag out an entire chapter) are common knowledge, or at least something easily picked up watching a few Netflix series. In the end, I enjoyed the book for the most part, appreciating it for what Patterson is best known for: an outrageous thriller with a few twists and a sometimes guessable ending. I just could have done without a few large sections of the book that needed a heavy-handed editor and not a politician unaware his exit music was playing just a tad too long.

— Lindsey Hollenbaugh, managing editor of features

President John Lincoln Duncan has been many things. An Army Ranger. A prisoner of war. A war hero. Governor of North Carolina. A husband. A father. A widower. And now, unbeknownst to the American public, their only hope. Only the president can stop the impending terrorist attack that could cripple the nation, plunging us into civil unrest and time is running out. Oh, how I wished time would run out as I read this book. Written by James Patterson and President Bill Clinton, this book should be the blockbuster it promises to be. But, unfortunately, it falls short. Instead, the book reads like a dream diary, in which the president — a pillar of virtue — has time to feed a homeless vet and comment on police brutality as he rushes to save the country from certain doom. The highlight of the book is Bach, a hired assassin, who I'd rather have read 500-plus pages about. Instead, I was forced to read, what I can only assume was, Bill Clinton's advice to the sitting president on how to run the country.

— Jennifer Huberdeau, UpCountry Magazine Editor

I spent the first half of this book pretending it was "West Wing" fan-fiction, until believability was completely lost, then I switched to "Scandal" in my head. This is a perfect example of a type of book I actually don't read when given a choice. I'm not a huge fan of thrillers, but this one did what was needed: It's fast-paced and readable, with stakes so high you don't have to expend any energy caring. The perfect book to spend an afternoon with, if thrillers are your thing.

Those last few pages are a slog, though.

— Meggie Baker, calendar clerk

The entire novel "The President is Missing" by James Patterson and Bill Clinton takes place in just a few days. It took me only 48 hours to read the 500-page book — I couldn't put it down. There are times, when the book seems to crawl, especially scenes when the computer geeks are trying to stop the virus. Or the explanations of the three branches of the government and their duties. Or the somewhat politically preachy epilogue, Duncan's speech before Congress, but then again, in light of the current state of the presidency, it can be seen as a rallying call. The plot and its many twists and turns is believable, and made me consider the possibility that some enemy of the U.S. could try pull it off. Although the promos for the book promised an inside look at the secrets of the U.S. government only a former president would know, I don't think any were divulged. However, Clinton's insider's view of the presidency and the White House greatly added to the book. It also probes the thin line between loyalty and duty — and resentment and temptation that can corrupt even the most honorable of public servants. If you're expecting the quick, fast and quirky James Patterson-style of writing, you may be disappointed. There are a few of his two-page chapters, but I suspect most of the writing belongs to Clinton. The supporting characters are believable and most of them likeable — and the traitor came as a surprise to me, I had someone else pegged.

— Margaret Button, associate features editor

I haven't read mass-market fiction in quite some time, so it took me a bit to get used to some of the lazy metaphors and editing ("pay money," really?) that this genre is apt to produce. Also, there are a slew of: Very. Short. Dramatic. Sentences. To its credit, the book can be a page-turner at times, particularly before an event that threatens carnage toward the halfway mark, and the regular trips inside a president's calculating mind are entertaining, if not revelatory, rides. Ultimately, however, "The President Is Missing" loses its suspense too quickly, leading to a preachy ending that feels tacked-on. "The Editor Is Missing" would have been a more fitting title.

— Benjamin Cassidy, arts and entertainment reporter

On the surface, "The President is Missing" is a decent thriller with a believable plot, semi-decent characters and enough drama, twists and action to keep the pages turning. The book reads quickly and won't get a reader bogged down in literal jargon. That being said, it felt odd getting lectured by Bill Clinton throughout the book. Clinton uses the narrative voice of John Duncan to hammer home his political points of view and how Clinton thinks everything should work in the world. In this current political climate, I hop into a book to escape what's going on around me, not to get into it even more.

— Geoff Smith, sports editor

Meet the Berkshire Eagle Book Club Members ...

Lindsey Hollenbaugh

Title: Managing editor of features

What kind of reader are you?: I love a "mom-oir." Give me strong female lead characters any day. Add a floral cover in pastel hues with some kind of parenting or marriage plot twist and I'm hooked. I also appreciate generational family stories and historical fiction.

When/where do you read the most?: In bed, every night for about an hour before I go to sleep. When I can, I sneak a few hours during my son's nap time or in the car on long drives.

List a few of your favorite authors: This is a tough one for me because I'm terrible at remembering names (like really, really terrible — a perfect trait for an editor, no?). Often, you can hear me describe a book like this: "You know, the one about the woman who left her husband? I think there's a bird on the cover?" But thanks to Google, I can remember a few: Joan Didion, Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett, Ken Follett

Margaret Button

Title: Associate features editor

What kind of reader are you?: Anything reader — from the back of the cereal box on up ...

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When/where do you read the most?: Whenever I can, wherever I can. Love doctors' waiting rooms and jury duty.

List a few of your favorite authors: Janet Evanovitch, James Patterson (Women's Murder Club series), Dan Silva, Diane Mott Davidson, Carl Hiaasen, Michael Connolly, Jodi Piccoult, Sue Monk Kidd ... really too many to list them all

Geoff Smith

Title: Sports Editor

What kind of reader are you?: I'm a little complex, I can't be pigeonholed like this. "Unpredictable"

When/where do you read the most?: I read the most in the mornings or late at night, or when I'm on vacation, I cannot stop reading.

Favorites: Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, Chuck Palahniuk, George R.R. Martin

Jennifer Huberdeau

Title: UpCountry Magazine Editor

What kind of reader are you?: Binge reader (AKA the type that reads everything in a series or by a particular author)

When/where do you read the most? Living room/bedroom - nights, weekends, before bed

List a few of your favorite authors: Bret Easton Ellis, Alice Hoffman, Stacy Schiff, Anne Rice, Gregory McGuire, Stephen King, V.C. Andrews, George R.R. Martin

Meggie Baker

Title: Calendar Clerk

What kind of reader are you?: I'm In Over My Head: I hit the book sales and stock up, even when I'm still stocked up. I beam books onto my phone with one click, adding them to a list of things I will probably never get to. I take books home from work, take the advice of strangers at book fairs, buy books off Internet lists. And worse, I serially start books and find myself perpetually in the middle of four or five at a time. I like the classics, I like sci-fi, fantasy, YA. I generally avoid contemporary fiction and the Momoir.

When/where do you read the most?: If I'm at home, I'm reading. I read in the morning while I eat my breakfast, I eat at night after work. If I have my phone on me and have any amount of downtime, no matter how small, I'm reading. I read in a lawn chair in the summer; I read in front of the fire all winter.

List a few of your favorite authors: This is an impossible question. I like everything, unless I hate it.

Benjamin Cassidy

Title: Arts and Entertainment Reporter

What kind of reader are you?: I read literary fiction novels and long-form magazine journalism the most.

When/where do you read the most?: When I'm putting off my own writing, usually on Sundays, sprawled on my couch

List a few of your favorite authors: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jay McInerney, Larissa MacFarquhar


The next book we’ll be reading is “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. Fans of Barbara Kingsolver may enjoy this debut novel about a North Carolina “marsh girl” who comes of age in the wilds of the marsh, living completely alone, until two men enter her life. This heartbreaking, coming-of-age story takes a murderous twist when one of the men is found face down in the mud, dead, without a trace of evidence found.

Read along with us and email Lindsey Hollenbaugh your thoughts to be included in our next book club edition, on the second Sunday of the month. Email


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