To Kill The President, by Sam Bourne

Eight stars

As Sam Bourne returns with another explosive thriller, he stirs the political pot and is sure to cause an uproar on both sides of the aisle. When the current President of the United States (POTUS) goes on a rampage in the middle of the night, he starts a chain of events that brings the world to within seconds of nuclear annihilation. This proves to be a major red flag for his Chief of Staff, Bob Kassian, who can see that his boss is flirting with absolute disaster. Added to that, POTUS’s Chief Strategist is a diehard supporter and is willing to spin anything in favour of the Leader of the Free World. Crawford ‘Mac’ McNamara is a take-no-prisoners and candy-coat nothing type of guy, whose brash comments in the West Wing have women diving for cover and others picking their jaws up off the floor. One of the few hold-outs from the previous Administration is Maggie Costello, ardent enemy of POTUS’s politics, but hoping to prove the balancing opinion from her perch in the White House Counsel’s Office. When the President’s personal physician is found dead in a Washington park, early signs point to suicide. However, Maggie’s sleuthing skills force her not to stand by waiting for answers, especially with all the inconsistencies. Further poking around leads her to uncover a plot to assassinate the sitting president, news that could change the course of the country. The more she learns, the further Maggie’s conviction that Bob Kassian is at the heart of things. As she tries to transmit the news to the authorities, someone is trying to silence her, which could spell disaster for all involved. With a trained assassin leaving digital breadcrumbs and preparing for the mission of a lifetime, Maggie finds herself persona non grata on the grounds of the White House. When all is said and done, it is not the act that proves most dangerous, but the spin taken by the likes of Mac that serves as the larger weapon. Bourne has done a wonderful job ruffling feathers in this poignant and timely piece, sure to cause much chatter amongst readers. Perfect for those who like controversial topics and fans of political thrillers.

It is likely the similarities to the actual situation in the United States that has everyone up in arms about this book. I have seen some folks scrambling to toss this book and Bourne under the bus, labelling him as a ‘crackpot’ and having ‘churned out this garbage in short order to prove a point’. However, it is this panic that has me wondering if Bourne hit a truthful nerve amongst this segment, worried they finally see the person they chose to back as the man he might well be. Removing the name and exact happenings, Bourne is able to play the Devil’s Advocate and permit fiction to spin the story in numerous directions. Some seem happy to toss out the epithets, but when things get a little too hot, it is time to vilify anyone who differs and paint them as a traitor or idiot. Bourne’s use of strong characters in this novel is surely one of the reasons it has rung true with many folks, from a POTUS who is off the rails through to a Chief of Staff unable to use political and sensible means to calm his boss. Maggie Costello makes her return in wonderful fashion, trying to crack the code and communicate her findings. However, Crawford McNamara provides the most insight into the entire situation here, forcing the reader to digest some of the ideas they may not wish to hear. Bourne uses Mac’s verbal tirades to posit that as much as Americans do not want to admit it, there may be a shard of themselves in this bombastic leader. Racist, pig-headed, refusing to accept other views… and yet, when push comes to shove, it was all through democratic means that this man made it to the White House. Spin or not, there were few legal ways to end the madness people rally against, but it is by no means easy, as Mac makes clear. The story itself is well-paced and keeps the reader wanting to learn more, though the horror of it all might be scarier than anyone wishes to admit. The themes are definitely not hidden, nor are the paths laid out before the reader. I can only hope that some will read this and see for themselves just what a mess things have become, without trying to toss the other side under the bus and point fingers. Bourne may be trying to say (from his British perch), “you got yourselves into this mess… now deal with it.” I would tend to agree, but is killing the man the only way to silence the incessant chirping (or, shall I say, ‘Tweeting’)?

Kudos, Mr. Bourne, for a riveting reading experience. I can only hope that you’ll keep your finger on the pulse and pen some more wonderfully written pieces like this for readers to enjoy down the road.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: