US President Keegan Barrett has swept into office on his success as Director of the CIA. Six months into his first term, he devises a clandestine power grab with deadly consequences. Barrett personally orders Special Agents Liam Grey and Noa Himel to execute his plan, but their loyalties are divided. The CIA serves at the pleasure of the president, yet they've sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. When the threat comes directly from the Oval Office, that's where the blowback begins.
...if Blowback is feedback on Donald Trump’s raging years in office, it’s only a glancing shot. That figures. After all, Patterson has long maintained an indulgent detente with his friend and fellow Floridian. Unlike Stephen King, who regularly unleashes the hounds of hell upon Trump, Patterson has largely restricted himself to sighs of disappointment. Even in his two immensely popular presidential thrillers written with Bill Clinton, Patterson has avoided any harsh criticism of the Very Stable Genius ... One hesitates to attribute too educational a motive to Patterson, but this is essentially a lesson in the dangers of abrogating all those encrusted diplomatic rules and international laws that, some claim, let other nations walk all over us ... DuBois may not have the marketing glamour of Bill Clinton, but at least he doesn’t gunk up Patterson’s presidential plots with boring lectures about How Government Works ... In fact, Blowback rarely tolerates any unnecessary diversions at all. This is narrative stripped down to the studs, in every sense. The scenes are so short they could be written on napkins ... But we didn’t wander in here expecting Proust. We want gee-whiz technology and bloodless mayhem. Check, check.
The narrative is written in the present tense, giving the proceedings an immediacy that proves crucial to keeping the reader from exploring the story’s weaknesses: a certain thinness of character and an overreliance on suspending disbelief (even once the premise is accepted). It helps that Patterson, writing with coauthor DuBois, employs his signature short chapters and constantly shifts the point of view from one character to the next, keeping us wondering what’s going to happen next. Patterson’s name on the cover pretty much guarantees an audience, but books with his name on them vary considerably in quality, from barely serviceable to quite good. Rank this one somewhere in the middle: clever and unnerving but a bit too slick to really get our pulses spiking.
Echoing Fletcher Knebel's Night of Camp David, which they acknowledge, and Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove, which they don’t, the authors set their rousing tale of a few good citizens determined to wrestle the country back from a delusional paranoiac in a world that’s at once absolutely menacing and deeply nostalgic. The perfect beach read for political junkies willing to change the frequency for a few hours.