The President's Daughter: A Thriller

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

“How could a former U.S. president finally be able to take over an action-hero team? And what might the costs of that effort become? Or even, dare we imagine, the rewards?”

A paperback release of this lively thriller from master author James Patterson and presidential expert Bill Clinton comes just in time to add gusto to the summer reading stack. The President’s Daughter offers a quick and believable trip into the lives of a former president and his family, tucked into a secure compound in the White Mountains of New Hampshire—but no longer protected the way a serving president’s home would be, in any sense.

Bill Clinton’s humor and persistence peek through the narrative every couple of pages, making double-takes common all the way. For example, Matthew Keating is far from resigned to a quiet post-importance life, despite losing his slot to the maneuvering of the woman he’d brought in as vice president: “Unfortunately, I went into a tough presidential campaign with more experience as a Navy SEAL in battles overseas than in political wars at home. And I was still angry about it, so angry I was tempted a couple of times to resign and let her have the d*** office before she rode to victory in the November election. But I couldn’t do it. No current or former SEAL would ever give up before the job is one. And no president should, either.”

Between the pithy statements of a former president commenting on his own role, and the page-turning plot with James Patterson’s quintessential crime threats and villains, there’s barely room for the “president’s daughter” of the title to exert her own leadership. Off for a romantic hike with Tim, a possible long-term partner, Melanie Keating no longer has any Secret Service coverage—and a Muslim terrorist with a personal vendetta against Mel’s father can access other resentful global allies as he aims to torment the Keating family.

Still, Patterson knows the drill, and when Mel can finally take the lead in this action thriller, she does so from her own form of strength, having practiced and prepared in advance in case she was ever taken hostage: “Mel feels the SUV stay on a dirt road for a good length of time, and she resumes counting one more time, going one thousand one, one thousand two, and keeping focused. The tears have stopped. No time for tears. Her legs and arms are cramped, her mouth is dry-raw with the cloth stuck inside, and she’s wondering how long it will be before Tim’s body is found.”

One of the delights of this partnership of authors is their expertise—there’s no moment of doubt about a proposed weapon or strategy, because Patterson is an established pro. And the insights into POTUS emotions and actions are surely as authentic. In The President’s Daughter the former President takes opportunities to spring into action himself (“former SEAL” = “always SEAL,” right?), which is worth a few chuckles, imagining that Clinton couldn’t resist putting himself into a landing party. In fact, much of the plotting for this exhilarating novel must have put that aspect front-and-center: How could a former U.S. president finally be able to take over an action-hero team? And what might the costs of that effort become? Or even, dare we imagine, the rewards?

One small flaw to all this imagining is the way the book’s villains are painted as vulnerable in terms of emotion, intelligence, and insufficient planning. That’s the part that shouldn’t be taken as a portrait of the real world of global threat. War isn’t a game when real lives are engaged.

But that’s a minor complaint, compared to the skillful and well-paced plot of this entertaining thriller. An easy and enjoyable summer read, this book from a pair of clever and often humorous authors makes a great addition to the summer reading menu and leaves a bright lemony aftertaste. May every president’s daughter get to be the hero of a global interchange and family survival, despite the often-soiled politics of American life.