The President’s Daughter by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
It’s been a long while since reading a book that I just could not put down. Even though the world around was noisy, two daughters causing havoc and a few less than subtle comments about sitting and reading when there was much to do, such is the quality of the writing and the thrilling plot of The President’s Daughter.
The President’s Daughter is the second collaboration between the former United States President, Bill Clinton, and arguably the greatest thriller writer of our generation, James Patterson. And who to give insight into the workings of the White House and the centre of political power - the Oval Office - than Bill Clinton. Clinton is seemingly far enough away from the Oval to see the world as more than ally or foe but still close enough to current politics to write with authenticity and modernity.
The first composition from this unlikely combo The President is Missing presents a horrifying scenario in which the sitting President is used as a ransom for the destruction of the US access to the internet. In this follow up, the ex-President (Matthew Keating) draws on his history as a naval seal and military know-how and political nous to find his kidnapped daughter.
There is the usual American bravado in the dialogue, and the premise is the stereotypical America-versus-‘evil’ scenario coupled with the ubiquitous unexpected heroes and - this time - the might of the American military with enough gadgets to please James Bond. There is definitely a Taken feel to the development of the narrative, but imagine Liam Neeson’s character from that franchise with the entire American military resource at his disposal. It does make you wonder if perhaps Bill Clinton is outworking some of his own deep ambitions to be a bit more in the field and chasing down crooks. I am sure he has spent many an hour worrying about what he would do if Chelsea ever got into a similar predicament.
Ex-President Keating has been ousted by his Vice President after being challenged and beaten in the primaries following his first term in office. This interesting subplot to the kidnapping adds a second layer to the Washington narrative and creates that sordid underbelly of US politics. The return of Mel Keating is the primary driver throughout and the ex-President must draw on deep reserves - highlighted by the multiple mentions of a failing hip that never eventuated into causing much trouble - to bring her back.
Patterson uses every trick in the book with this plot progression to keep the reader guessing and drawing them into red herrings from multiple angles. Added to this is the ever changing 3rd person limited view of the various characters chapter by chapter. Not an unusual tact for Patterson but the fervour with which the chapters move is above and beyond his traditional style.
There is a definite movie plan in this. The writing and the action lend themselves to some vivid chase and the required White House situation room scenes. The US company Showtime did have plans for the movie adaptation of The President is Missing but COVID kyboshed the plan, it wasn’t long before the next studio picked it up and is due for release in the next 24 months. The President’s Daughter provides an easy and, no doubt successful, sequel to that.
Bill Clinton as a man - separate from his political career - has been characterised as a voracious reader. It seems he has drawn on the greats of thriller and suspense and produced a quality piece of writing that keeps the reader hooked throughout the novel with the typical twists and turns of a master storyteller. If it’s a cliché to say it is a rollercoaster of a novel, then this rollercoaster keeps getting faster and the turns keep getting sharper. It is the type of novel that has ‘summer read’ written all over it, but don’t wait that long.
Reviewer: Chris Reed