All the hype notwithstanding, "The President is Missing" is an outstanding political thriller.

All the hype notwithstanding, "The President is Missing" (Little, Brown, $30, 538 pages), from the unlikely pairing of James Patterson and former President Bill Clinton, is an outstanding political thriller.

The hero of the title, Jonathan Lincoln Duncan, is the kind of president we only wish we had. He's a proactive leader willing to take matters into his own hands for the good of the nation, even if that means disappearing for a time. At the heart of his quest lies a computer virus that could take us back to the Stone Age. Duncan must disable it, even as the world's top assassin closes in on his trail.

Politics aside, this is superb reading entertainment, a summer read extraordinaire that reminded me of the similarly titled "The President's Plane is Missing," a thriller I read in a single setting as a teenager.

 

Look up adventure in the dictionary and you’re likely to find a picture of Doug Preston and Lincoln Child for reasons that are all on display in "The Pharaoh Key" (Grand Central, $28, 320 pages).

Series stalwart Gideon Crew once again takes center stage, even as he struggles with a death sentence doctors have given him. So when the opportunity to save his own life, along with the world, comes in the form of a legendary ancient stone tablet known as the Phaistos Disc, Crew takes up the hunt with a sense of understandable urgency.

This is lightning-paced, action-thriller writing of the highest order, a throwback to the best of Alistair MacLean and reminiscent of James Rollins and Brad Meltzer at their best.

 

The aptly titled and blisteringly original "Providence" (Random House, $27, 384 pages) brings the action, appropriately enough, to the Rhode Island capital, which is hardly averse to nefarious dealings.

But Cape Cod's Caroline Kepnes takes that proclivity to a whole new level in what is essentially a paranormal thriller featuring a hero named Jon who emerges from four years of captivity at the hands of a kidnapper with inexplicable powers. Good thing, because he's going to need them to get to the root of a series of inexplicable murders that just might be connected to the trauma from which he emerged.

In the best tradition of Stephen King and Robert R. McCammon, "Providence" is a morality tale that explores good and evil as true forces of nature in a tour de force of a tale that even sprinkles in some H.P. Lovecraft for good measure.

 

James Hankins' chillingly effective "A Blood Thing" (Thomas & Mercer, $24.95, 455 pages) also makes use of New England settings, Vermont in this case.

Reminiscent of Harlan Coben for all the right reasons, Hankins' latest treats us to classic noir that dredges up the genre staples of extortion and manipulation layered amid hero Andrew Kane’s quest for the light in the form of saving his brother from a murder charge. The descent he must first make deeper into the darkness takes him into a netherworld of ambiguous morality, posing the question how far would you go to save someone you loved?

Unique in its approach and bracing in its execution, "A Blood Thing" bleeds terrific reading entertainment on every page.

 

I somehow missed Jack Carr's "The Terminal List" (Atria, $26, 416 pages) when it first arrived on my doorstep, a mistake I won’t make with his next book.

That’s due in large part to the book's intriguing and captivating hero James Reece, who at first glance seems cut from the same mold as every other former Navy SEAL protagonist. But appearances can be deceiving and, in this case, Reece might have stepped straight out of the work of Joseph Conrad as channeled by Nelson DeMille.

DeMille penned one of the finest "war" novels ever in "Word of Honor," also featuring a tortured hero plagued by an incident from his past. In Reece’s case, make that two, since it’s actually a pair of tragedies that have come to define his life. When it becomes clear that a singular force was actually behind both of them, Reece embarks on a desperate, and often violent, quest for truth and the vengeance that rises from that.

This is thriller writing of the highest order, on par with the likes of Brad Thor and Brad Taylor.

 

In "Dark Side of the Moon" (Open Road, $19.99, 480 pages), Alan Jacobson takes his series featuring an FBI profiler in a new direction — literally, as the title indicates.

A mystery surrounding something found by an Apollo space crew forms the Hitchcockian MacGuffin of this ambitiously structured and told tale. It’s left to Karen Vail and her team to protect that secret by uncovering a mole bent on exposing or stealing it.

Unlike past efforts that have bordered more on Thomas Harris, Jacobson's latest is more akin to the work of the aforementioned Preston and Childs, or even James Rollins. What makes it truly special, though, are the psychological elements he maintains mastery over in crafting a relentlessly paced and riveting effort.

 

It’s hard to imagine a timelier tale than Allan Topol's "Russian Resurgence" (Select Books, $16.95, 304 pages) which postulates a Kremlin plot to retake control of Central and Eastern Europe.

Once again, it’s left to the intrepid Craig Page and team to head off disaster in a story that strays far beyond even its ripped-from-the-headlines premise. That’s because Topol layers his tale with historic tones infused by characters who've seen the past and are relentlessly devoted to preventing it from becoming the future.

I was going to liken "Russian Resurgence" to Nelson DeMille as well, but John le Carré or even Leon Uris might make for better comparisons. A cautionary tale that seems to become more prescient every day.

— Jon Land (jonlandauthor@aol.com) has published many thrillers and lives in Providence.

 

Point Street Reading Series

Caroline Kepnes, author of "Providence," will be at the Point Street Reading Series on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Alchemy, 71 Richmond St., 2nd floor, Providence. Admission is $5. Also appearing will be Hannah Pittard ("Visible Empire"), Grant Ginder ("The People We Hate at the Wedding"), Estep Nagy ("We Shall Not All Sleep") and Lillian Li ("Number One Chinese Restaurant.")