First Family Review
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In author David Baldacci’s follow-up to 2007’s Simple Genius, former Secret Service agents turned private investigators Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are called in for a late-night meeting to discuss a new case with Pam Dutton, the president’s sister-in-law. Before they can find out what it is that Pam wants investigated, though, someone else gets to her first. As Sean and Michelle arrive, two men race away in a flood of gunfire—and when the pair makes it inside the house, they find that Pam is dead, her husband and two of her kids are out cold, and her oldest daughter, Willa, is missing.

Years ago, Sean met First Lady Jane Cox under some pretty awkward circumstances. So, despite the fact that the FBI and the Secret Service are both on the case, Jane calls Sean for help in finding her beloved niece.

Meanwhile, as Michelle continues to struggle with a troubled past that she still can’t remember, her mother is found dead—and Michelle is forced to return home to grieve with her family.

First Family weighs in at a bulky (and intimidating) 468 pages—and every last page is packed with twisting plots and subplots, along with some pretty heavy character development. On one side is the First Family—especially the First Lady. Though she claims that she wants Sean and Michelle to find her niece, she’s not always entirely forthcoming with information, which often leads the investigators down dead-end paths. Then, on the other side, is the kidnapper, an old man who’s out for revenge for some unknown injustice. And, finally, floating off somewhere on the outskirts of the novel, is Michelle’s own story—her past, her family, and her strained relationships. There’s a whole lot going on here—yet the mystery and suspense will easily hold your attention through the whole thing.

The main story is one of politics and scandal. The characters are so complex that it’s often hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. And the mystery is so absorbing that you’ll keep coming back, anxious to find out how everything’s connected—and how it will end.

Since I once again find myself jumping into the middle of the series, though, I did have a hard time with Michelle’s storyline. Perhaps it’s just because I haven’t read the earlier books—and, thus, I didn’t feel as connected to the character. But her personal stuff takes up a pretty big chunk of the book, even adding its own side mystery. I never thought I’d say that a book has too much character development—but it sometimes distracts attention away from the main plot.

Still, First Family is a captivating read that will keep you on the edge of your favorite reading chair for (almost) all 468 pages. It’s definitely not a quick read, but it’s a satisfying one nonetheless.

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