First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader
First Daughter is a political thriller that takes place at a time in American history when one religious and extremely conservative president is about to step down from power after eight years. Sound familiar? It should. This president, who is never named, does not want to hand over the power he’s so enjoyed, not even when the president-elect, Edward Carson, is a member of his own party. He will go to any length to keep pulling the strings of government by using extremely liberal and atheist groups as scapegoats for what is going wrong in the country. When Carson’s daughter, Alli, is kidnapped just before the swearing in, will this be just situation the current POTUS needs to keep control?
Although the struggle to keep or gain political power is the backdrop of this novel, this is really the story of Jack McClure, a divorced ATF agent who has just recently lost his own daughter Emma in a tragic car accident. Emma and Alli had been roommates before her death. Jack also has dyslexia. In high school, he is lucky enough to meet a man who mentors him and teaches him how to harness the way his brain takes in and compiles information use it to his advantage. Although he is not part of the FBI, Edward Carson specifically asks him to be a part of the governmental team in charge of finding Alli and tracking down her kidnapper.
Jack was an interesting character and I very much enjoyed meeting him and following him on his journey. He was a fully fleshed out character and his strength of character and perseverance are inspirational. His struggle to deal with Emma’s death was also his struggle with faith, religion, and the afterlife. What disappointed me in the end was that Jack deserved a nemesis as strong and complex as he is. The individual who kidnapped Alli had that potential. Instead, the author gave Jack the easy way out. He, like everyone on the FBI’s team, underestimated him and that is a shame.
First Daughter was an enjoyable novel, but ultimately I found it disappointing. It had the potential of being an exciting political and psychological thriller. Unlike March however, I don’t like my thrillers to come in like a lion and out like a lamb. As the POTUS and the members of the First American Secular Revivalists were two-dimensional, I didn’t find them menacing at all. Neither side was complex or spontaneous. The POTUS and his team were bullies, no doubt. It was as if the author was concerned with making a political statement, not with supporting it. I would like to meet Jack McClure in another adventure. Given the suspense he was able to create throughout Alli’s captivity, I’m confident that Eric Van Lustbader has what it takes to carry a thriller through until the very end. That would make for an exciting novel.
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