Different Times, Different Problems

Politics and Law, topics that can be either very contentious or equally boring depending on your interests.  If history is your thing, both topics can play a strong role in our lives whether we know it or not.  This month’s reviews are both novels with references to very true happenings, or have the potential of occurring in this day in age.

If you like a fast-moving political thriller then I suspect you might enjoy The President is Missing (2018) by James Patterson and Bill Clinton.  Once you begin reading, it may be difficult to put down.  The entire story only covers maybe 3-5 days’ time.  You will fly through the 513 pages in less time than that!

The tale opens with President Jonathan Duncan, former governor of North Carolina and former Army Ranger, facing potential impeachment.  Why?  Because some believe he held secret negotiations with a terrorist who wants to destroy the United States.

The President has other problems with which to deal.  For one, his medical issues due to a blood disorder.  Another is the unexpected call he received from his daughter Lilly.

Lilly is currently in France studying at the Sorbonne.  While out in public a woman unknown to Lilly wants her to deliver a message directly to her father.  That message…’Dark Ages’.

As a result of that phone call from Lilly a visitor who they think is named Nina meets with President Duncan in the Oval Office.  She obviously does not look or act with the same awe most first-time visitors when meeting a president.  For one thing she is young, dressed in a Princeton t-shirt, and wearing jeans.  A look that could be called hatred seems to radiate from her being as she utters the words ‘Dark Ages’, a highly classified term.

As Nina, produces an envelope, the president learns from the her that she has a partner.  This partner does not know what she knows.  In turn, the partner does know what this young woman knows.

The storyline becomes more complicated when the president opens the envelope.  It contains where and when the next meeting will take place.  It also includes a ticket to the site of the next meeting.  President Duncan is to come alone to meet Nina’s partner, Augie.

From this point on the action really ramps up.  At the meeting with Augie President Duncan learns someone in his inner circle intentionally, or possibly unintentionally leaked that highly classified term “Dark Ages”.  Only the president and his circle of eight knew those two words.  Augie assures the president, “…your codeword ‘Dark Ages’ is an appropriate one.”

I suppose I should let you know there is a bad guy in the mix.  A really bad guy.  Simon Cindoruk, cyberterrorism is his game.  He seems to be untouchable, has the money and means to accomplish the tasks he has set out to accomplish.  No money, no ransom is in the mix.  He and his backer want to destroy the United States by detonating a virus.

So much is going on in this novel which could easily have been ripped right from the headlines of the day.  The President is Missing was exciting, believable, and worth my time. You may want to give it a try.

From the first words of the opening chapter to the final words of that same chapter of The Reckoning (2018) by John Grisham you will learn the who, the what, the where, the when, and the how of the crime committed.  You will just not know the why leading to Pete Banning killing Rev. Dexter Bell.

Grisham’s story opens in 1946 and is set in the fictional town of Clanton, Mississippi in Fords County.  If that area rings a bell, it is probably because you have read other of his novels, such as Time to Kill, which is also in that same area.

Obviously, the folks of Clanton are shell shocked by the news of the popular Methodist minister being shot.  Add to that the fact WWII hero Pete Banning was the one who pulled the trigger.

Pete Banning is the Mr. Nice Guy in town.  He has two college age children. Joel, who attends Vanderbilt, has plans to enter law school.  Stella, a year younger than Joel, attends Hollins.  She has dreams of being a writer and living in New York City.  With the news of what their father has done, their lives and plans have been shaken to the core.  Their mother Liza is alive but has been in a mental institution for several years, not long after Pete returned home from the war.

Of course, Jackie Bell, wife of the minister, has had her life turned upside down by Pete Banning’s actions.  She and their three children have moved to her parents’ home in Georgia.  Errol McLeish, a lawyer who had been a classmate of Jackie’s, comes back into her life.  He sees dollar signs in a potential lawsuit.  He devises a scheme and begins to dig through court records in an effort to learn about the Banning family.  Can you say shyster?

This is not your typical Grisham novel many of you have come to expect.  Yes, it has courtroom drama with legal issues connected to the murder and the fallout from what Pete did.  His tale also includes all the interesting characters and the local flavor that makes it a Grisham read.  What is really quite different is easily one third of this book…a war story.

This part of the novel is a very detailed account, albeit fictionalized, of Pete’s time in the Philippines during WWII.  For me, it was almost like a book within a book.  Pete was captured and was part of the Bataan Death March.  Grisham has obviously done his homework on this topic.  I personally thought this section was a little too long.  Saying that, I was made aware of atrocities that were committed.

Stick with it and Part III of The Reckoning will finally lead you ‘the why’ missing in Chapter 1.  It just took John Grisham a little longer that usual to get to that point.


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