An Acting President's power grab involves both constitutional challenge and military coup in this near-future political melodrama, with which Batchelor (Peter Nevsky and the True Story of the Russian Moon Landing 1993, etc.) makes his own grab for a large, action-oriented readership. It's 2003. In January, Democratic President Teddy Jay, abandoned by his wife and deeply depressed, entered the hospital, using the 25th Amendment to transfer his duties to Vice President Shy Garland. The story begins five months later with a military exercise, Garland's brainchild, that culminates with the shooting of a stand-in President by Col. Red Schofield, commander of the operation. As Jay, claiming recovery, prepares to rejoin his wife and resume the presidency, Garland mounts his constitutional challenge; only if it fails will he resort to the military option (code-named Father's Day). Message: ""The biggest son of a bitch...in national politics,"" for whom life is a baseball game, will do anything to win. The contest, though, is unequal: Jay is a wimp who must rely on his political enemies to restore him to power. These include Republicans like naval war hero and presidential hopeful Jack Longfellow and Longfellow's wife, Jean, the Senate Minority Leader. They get a boost when designated shooter Schofield leaks to sister Toni, who (happy coincidence) is Longfellow's mistress. During their rush to Occupied Moldova (Uncle Sam is world policeman again) to get a written statement from Schofieid, Jack and Toni behave like everyone else in the book, playing with shiny new technology and racing for planes as they hurry up and wait for a twisty, improbable denouement. That's the action here, aside from a Clancy-esque rattle of hardware at the start and close. Batchelor's dubious premise (would America really give its president five months off for therapy?) and his skin-deep characterizations make for a disappointing concoction.