Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book Review: First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader

When President-elect Edward Carson’s daughter Alli is kidnapped, Carson puts his old friend and ATF agent Jack McClure on the case – a case where political alliances are murky, the criminals operate off the grid, and specters from Jack’s past reappear.

If you like the TV series 24, then First Daughter should appeal to you. Jack McClure has quite a bit in common with Jack Bauer. Both are government agents, both neglect a wife and daughter and lose them – one to death and one to estrangement, and both follow their own logic to track down the bad guys. But since the format of this novel is less restrictive than 24 – the action takes place over a whole month instead of one day and there are flashbacks to Jack’s past – we get a deeper sense of what makes Jack McClure tick.

I did enjoy this novel for the most part. The first scene of the book takes place on inauguration day and has serious hooks. (I defy you to put the book down after reading it.) Then we rewind a month to follow the events that led up to this mind-blowing scenario.

The framework of the plot concerns two opposing sides. One is led by a delusional lame duck president who believes he has a direct mandate from God and will do anything to remain in power behind the scenes even after the new president has been sworn in. The other is a shadowy extremist faction of the missionary separatist movement who believes in total separation of church and state and use violence to further their aims. The idea is interesting, but the execution left me confused, wondering exactly what message Author Lustbader was going for. Also, the over abundance of soapy soapbox speeches from both sides tend to slow the pace, not something you strive for in a thriller.

Getting to know Jack’s past and learning how he transformed his dyslexia from a disability to his greatest strength were much more satisfying elements of the story. Also great: The villain was suitably evil, the twists and turns in the search for Alli abundant. And I never saw that end coming.

First Daughter is available in hardcover now.


H said...

The plot sounds good, but a bit too much like it was written to get across a religious and political message?

Lenore Appelhans said...

H, some reviewers see parallels with George W. Bush's administration but I'm not sure Lustbader was really trying to get across any message, maybe just bringing up the debate? Like I said, it's confusing, so it is hard to tell!

Anonymous said...

Sounds good because there's nothing that's more of a drag than when you can SEE the end coming, so I like ones that are really big surprises. Thanks for the review!

Kelly said...

I really enjoyed First Daughter, it was the first Lustbader I had read, so now I'm going to have to read some more of his stuff.

Staci said...

Great review Lenore. I haven't read a thriller in a LONG time but if I were to come across this at the library I might now pick it up after reading your thoughts on it!!

Beth Kephart said...

Hey. Wait. I thought you were in Greece, or something. Are you actually several people at once?

Anonymous said...

I've recently gotten into "24," which is totally out-of-character for me, so maybe I'll surprise myself further and grab a book like this one! :) Sounds like a great read!

Unknown said...

I have been a huge fan of Ludlum through the whole Bourne series, and admit this is the first novel by Lustbader I have read. I also had no idea he was writing under Ludlums ""okay""

Initially I was intrigued but I had to begin wondering where it was going... I was a little spooked that suddenly I was faced with not only espionage, but the afterlife. Do not get me wrong, I did enjoy the story, just had a very hard time coming to grips with the overall theme.

Overall, the story was good and I believe that he has a character that will develop well over time. I cannot hide me shock tough, when I found out that he was "writing "for Ludlum!! Hard to replace and I thing Lustbader has his place but it is not beside Ludlum.