The President's Daughter: A Thriller

Image of The President's Daughter: A Thriller
Release Date: 
June 7, 2021
Little, Brown & Company
Reviewed by: 

“James Patterson brought his A-game to this one, and Bill Clinton adds the verisimilitude one would expect from his experiences in the White House.”

Former President of the United States Matt Keating is doing his best to enjoy retirement. Living in a large house on Lake Marie, New Hampshire, he puts in the time canoeing and playing poker with his pared-down Secret Service protection detail while his daughter, Melanie, spends her summer break from Dartmouth on hiking trails in the nearby mountains. Meanwhile, the former First Lady is in Maine supervising an archaeological dig.

But a decision Matt made in the Situation Room during his presidency will come back to haunt him. Libyan terrorist Asim Al-Asheed was the target of a botched mission that killed his wife and daughters, and he’s vowed revenge.

When Asim boldly kidnaps Melanie on a trail at Mount Rollins, murdering her boyfriend in the process, Matt must face a terrible dilemma. With an unfriendly and uncooperative successor in the Oval Office who refuses to negotiate with terrorists, will he be forced to take matters into his own hands to rescue his daughter from certain death?

The President’s Daughter is the second collaboration between former President Bill Clinton and James Patterson, the world’s bestselling author. It follows The President Is Missing (2018), a somewhat disappointing thriller featuring a different president and a different cast of characters.

While the premises of the two novels are similar, centering on a president/ex-president who must disappear under the radar to save the day and a daughter to whom he feels very close, the stories are quite different.

Matt Keating is a former Navy SEAL with mission experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. A helicopter crash shattered his hip and ended his military career, but he’s never forgotten the training and the self-discipline that was a central part of his life before he entered politics.

His military background and outlook bring a different dynamic to the story than we saw in the first Clinton-Patterson collaboration. Although it takes several hundred pages to get there, we know that Matt Keating eventually is going to gear up and get after Asim, and the anticipated action keeps us turning the pages as the political intrigue and the twists and turns of the kidnapping run their course.

It’s clear that, as Secret Service agent David Stahl remarks to Matt’s chief of staff, the former president is “a father who’s going to get the job done, no matter what it takes.”

Matt Keating’s portions of the story are told in first person, while the other points of view switch to third-person narrative. Although we immediately know we’re back in the former president’s head each time he returns to center stage, the constant rotation among secondary characters frustrates at times. Matt’s the hero, the star, and we want to focus on him.

He’s a really good character, and we’re impatient to see what he does next. Of course, it’s a device to generate suspense and maintain interest, but occasionally the switching off is a little too intrusive and irritating.

In fact, the entire thread following Jiang Lijun, intelligence operative for China’s Ministry of State Security, could have been cut from the manuscript without a noticeable loss. His efforts to assist Asim in order to gain a measure of revenge against the hated Americans add nothing to the story, and in many ways his presence intrudes on the Libyan and his mission of vengeance.

Otherwise, the secondary characters are solid and fairly interesting. Stahl and Navy SEAL Nick Zeppos are great, Melanie is more than functional as a kidnap victim with a backbone and lots of defiance, and President Pamela Barnes, who stepped on Matt’s neck to gain the Oval Office, is an entertaining nemesis.

The story is told the way it should be in a thriller, with short chapters, plenty of cliffhangers, and enough twists and turns to keep the pages turning. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can read an almost-600-page brick like this one.

Is The President’s Daughter worth spending your hard-earned money on? Yes, in fact, it is.

James Patterson brought his A-game to this one, and Bill Clinton adds the verisimilitude one would expect from his experiences in the White House as a former president and commander-in-chief.

Buy it; read it; enjoy it.