Clear and Present Danger
Goodreads ratings
4.11 / 5

"Clear and Present Danger" Summary

By Tom Clancy

fiction | 688 pages | Published in NaN

Colombian drug lords, bored with Uncle Sam's hectoring, assassinate the head of the FBI. The message is clear: Bug off!At what point do these druggies threaten national security? When can a nation act against its enemies? These are questions Jack Ryan must answer because someone has quietly stepped over the line.Does anyone know who the real enemy is? How much action is too much? Which lines have been crossed? Ryan and his "dark side", a shadowy field officer known only as Mr. Clark, are charged with finding out. They expect danger from without... but the danger from within may be the greatest of all.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

When the CIA uncovers a Colombian drug cartel's ties to American politics, Jack Ryan must navigate dangerous waters to protect his country.


"Clear and Present Danger" by Tom Clancy is a gripping political thriller that delves into the world of espionage, international drug trade, and political power play. Published in 1989, it is the fourth novel in the Jack Ryan series and has been adapted into a successful film starring Harrison Ford. Set during the late 1980s, the novel explores the intricacies of U.S. intelligence operations and the moral dilemmas faced by those involved in covert activities. With its intense action, complex characters, and intricate plot, "Clear and Present Danger" keeps readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The story begins with the discovery of a sunken drug yacht off the coast of Colombia. As the U.S. government investigates, it becomes clear that powerful drug cartels are operating with impunity, posing a significant threat to national security. When a close friend of the President is murdered by the cartel, the administration authorizes covert operations to disrupt the drug trade. Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst, finds himself at the center of this clandestine and politically sensitive mission.


The novel is primarily set in the United States, Colombia, and the Caribbean. The action moves between the corridors of power in Washington D.C., the dangerous jungles of Colombia, and the high-stakes world of international espionage.

Main Events

1-5Discovery of the sunken drug yacht triggers investigation and political maneuvering.
6-10Escalating violence from the drug cartels leads to the authorization of covert operations.
11-15Planning and execution of the clandestine mission in Colombia.
16-20Intensifying conflict and escalating stakes for the characters involved.
21-25Revelations and confrontations as the mission reaches a critical point.
26-30Unforeseen consequences and the resolution of the covert operation.

Main Characters

Jack Ryan

A dedicated and principled CIA analyst who finds himself thrust into the heart of a covert operation against Colombian drug cartels. Ryan's moral compass and quick thinking make him a compelling protagonist.

John Clark

A highly skilled operative with a shadowy past, Clark is instrumental in leading the ground operations in Colombia. His experience and ruthlessness make him an invaluable asset to the mission.

Admiral James Greer

Ryan's mentor and a key figure in the intelligence community. Greer's wisdom and guidance are pivotal in navigating the murky waters of political intrigue and covert operations.

President Bennett

The President of the United States, who grapples with the complexities of combating the drug trade while facing political pressures and personal grief.

Felix Cortez

A high-ranking member of the Colombian drug cartel, Cortez is a formidable antagonist whose cunning and ruthlessness pose a significant threat to the mission and its operatives.

Themes and Insights

Power and Corruption

The novel delves into the corrupting influence of power, whether it be wielded by political leaders, drug lords, or intelligence operatives. It explores how the pursuit of power can lead to moral compromises and ethical dilemmas.

Moral Complexity

"Clear and Present Danger" grapples with the moral ambiguity of covert operations and the difficult choices faced by those involved. It raises questions about the justifiability of actions taken in the name of national security and the collateral damage that may result.

Loyalty and Betrayal

The novel delves into the themes of loyalty and betrayal, as characters navigate the treacherous waters of espionage and clandestine operations. It explores the complexities of trust and the consequences of betrayal in high-stakes environments.

Reader's Takeaway

"Clear and Present Danger" offers readers a thrilling and thought-provoking journey into the world of international intrigue, espionage, and political maneuvering. With its complex characters, high-stakes action, and moral dilemmas, the novel keeps readers engaged and leaves them pondering the intricate web of power and morality long after the final page.


Tom Clancy's "Clear and Present Danger" is a masterful blend of political thriller and espionage drama, weaving together a compelling narrative that grapples with the complexities of power, morality, and loyalty. Through its vivid characters and high-stakes plot, the novel captivates readers with its pulse-pounding action and thought-provoking insights into the world of covert operations. As Jack Ryan and his allies navigate the treacherous landscape of international drug trade and political intrigue, readers are taken on a riveting journey that illuminates the moral dilemmas and ethical challenges inherent in the pursuit of national security.

Clear and Present Danger FAQ

  1. What is Clear and Present Danger about?

    Clear and Present Danger is a political thriller novel by Tom Clancy that follows CIA analyst Jack Ryan as he becomes embroiled in a covert war against a Colombian drug cartel.

  2. Is Clear and Present Danger part of a series?

    Yes, Clear and Present Danger is part of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series, featuring the character Jack Ryan in various political and military scenarios.

  3. Is Clear and Present Danger suitable for all ages?

    Clear and Present Danger contains mature themes and violence, and may not be suitable for younger readers.

  4. What is the writing style of Clear and Present Danger?

    Tom Clancy's writing style in Clear and Present Danger is known for its detailed military and political realism, providing a rich and immersive reading experience.

  5. Are there any film adaptations of Clear and Present Danger?

    Yes, Clear and Present Danger was adapted into a film in 1994, starring Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan.