I had high hopes for this book. A thriller writer (who I'd heard of but never read) and a charismatic former president. I was promised secrets only a president would know, and a fast paced thriller. Unfortunately they didn't really deliver.
The plot, once they FINALLY reveal it (about half way through the book) is very good and genuinely terrifying. This is no tired old “nuclear bomb in an unnamed city” story, and none of the presidents kids have been kidnapped. This is a new kind of problem that reflects the current situation. The threat is very realistic and scared the pants off me in it's realism (especially since I work in the industry it applies to).
The downside is that while the author knows how to ratchet up the tension, much like the modern news cycle, he does so without telling the reader anything of note until about page 150 (by which time I wanted to scream “just tell me what's wrong!!”). It feels like that time when all the adults in the room had just been told that your little sister had an incurable disease but they were afraid of telling you in case you got upset. So the first half of the book is just frustrating. He also has a writing style that uses chapters like other, more fluid, writers use paragraphs. Every time he changes scene, even if it's as simple as swapping between the people inside the house and the people outside the same house at the same time, he starts a new chapter. As a result, a great many of the “chapters” are only one or two pages long, and I found this very frustrating too.
Then there's the “secret life of presidents” issue. If you've read another thriller in the last decade that deals with events at the White House, or you've watched any of the numerous “White House” dramas on TV or in a movie, then you won't discover anything you didn't already know about the life of a president or the running of the White House or the operations of the Secret Service. I can't recall reading anything at all that didn't already know, nor was there anything I'd expect others might reasonably be unaware of. I have to assume the author didn't learn anything new either and just slapped Bill's name on the top to sell more books. I was very disappointed with this aspect of the book.
Is it worth buying the book- Yes. The actual threat it covers is real and we need our governments to assure us they're aware of it and addressing it (something I certainly wouldn't take for granted these days), and the book does a credible job of explaining the scope of the problem and the likely outcomes. As someone who knows a little about the issue in question I'd say it's a credible threat. But either skim the first half of the book or wait for the shortened “Readers Digest” version to come out.