Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Review: First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader

As long as he can create pictures from the words he reads—scenes filled with characters, conflict, good and evil—he can build a world that’s in many ways closer to the one other people inhabit. And this makes him feel less like an outsider. [pg 255]

First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader
Forge, 2008
Crime Fiction (S/T); 400 pgs

The political climate in the United States is tense right now as the presidential candidates pull out all the stops, each wanting that coveted position as leader of the U.S.A. Eric Van Lustbader’s novel, First Daughter, plays right into that, as one ultra-conservative and religious President makes way for the newly elected moderate one.

When President-Elect Edward Carson’s daughter, Alli, is kidnapped, fingers are immediately pointed in the direction of secular revivalists whose aim is to take the growing religious fervor out of politics and the government. ATF Agent, Jack McClure, is assigned to the task force set up to find Alli and to capture the person or people behind her kidnapping. A long time friend of Mr. Carson’s, Jack is one of the few people he knows he can trust.

The investigation takes Jack deep into his past, where he relives his childhood as an abused and misunderstood boy. He was in his late teens before he was able to find help for his dyslexia, which he found through a kind pastor and rough around the edges mentor, both of whom took Jack into their hearts and lives. The current investigation seems eerily similar to crimes committed in his old neighborhood all those years ago. Despite orders to do otherwise, Jack decides to hunt down his own leads.

Jack has always been dedicated to his job, putting it first above all else, including his family. When tasked with finding the President-Elect’s daughter, Jack couldn’t be more determined. In fact, the investigation has a more personal tie to him. His daughter, Emma, had once been best friends and roommates with Alli Carson. Jack never felt he knew his own daughter and feels guilty for not being there for her when she needed him most. A car crash stole her away from him and finding Alli is, in small part, a way to redeem himself.

Best selling author Eric Van Lustbader has indeed written a suspenseful and complex novel. He takes two extremes and pits them against each other, challenging the role faith plays in government. Is faith a guiding force in creating a moral and upstanding society or has man made it a manipulative tool to spread fear and oppression, making those in control more powerful? The author himself challenges the reader to think about such questions.

Corruption, faith, false leads, secrets, redemption, prejudice, and self-discovery are all components in First Daughter. Jack McClure battles his own demons as he searches for Alli, trying to save her from whatever evil holds her captive. He is a well-drawn and well-rounded character. His own journey throughout the book is the one that touched me the most. I especially liked being drawn into his past, listening to old blues albums with him and hanging out at the library. I learned a little more about dyslexia than I had known before. For Jack, it proved to be both a disability and also a strength.

I was less certain about Alli, whose confusion and self-doubts bled through the pages. It suited the part she played in the story well, however. She made for an easy target. On the other side of the coin, was the main antagonist, a character who is both cunning and intelligent—and oh, so utterly creepy--making for one of the scariest of villains I have encountered this year.

I do wish the author had gone a little farther in regards to the faith angle, delving more deeply into the secular revivalists and drawing out the characters involved with that particular organization. There was so much going on in the novel, that the religious angle seemed to get lost in the shuffle at times.

The book started out slow for me as I got my mind around the many characters being introduced and tried to understand each of their agendas—or at least get a baseline. While some of those agendas remained shrouded in mystery until near the end, they did become clearer as the story unfolded. I enjoyed First Daughter overall.

Rating: * (Good +)

Check out the author's website for more information about his books.

Thank you to TJ Dietderich of Planned Television Arts for the opportunity to read this book!

Read what others had to say about this book:
Adventures in Never-Never Land
B&B ex Libris
Book Hangover
Bookish Ruth
Devourer of Books
Experiments in Reading
Hey Lady! Watcha Readin'?
The Literate Housewife
Lynne's Little Corner of the World
The Optimistic Bookfool
The Tome Traveller's Weblog
Traci's Book Bag
A Writer's Pen


  1. Wendy, I agree the kinapper was C-R-E-E-P-Y.

    I don't normally read this genre but like The President's Daughter enough to see what Van Lustbader does with Jack in follow-ups to this one.

    My review is here:


  2. I don't really like politics period so I tend to stay away from books like this. For some reason I do like movies like this though and this one sounds interesing.

    I recieved my Hatchette Books today! Thank you again for hosting the contest. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that Dewey wasn't in it because they were sold out or something. I really want to read that book lol. Still, there are some good ones!

  3. Shana - The kidnapper sure was creepy! I do like thrillers, although I can't say I've read a lot of political ones. I added a link to your review.

    Jen - I don't mind politics on some level, but it really depends on the format and subject matter. :-) You probably are more likely to find me watching a political thriller movie than reading a book of the same kind, although sometimes I do give one a try if it catches my fancy.

    Thank you for letting me know you received the books! Darn though about Dewey. Did you get another book in its place? I hope so!

  4. No but that's okay. Thanks again for hosting the contest!

  5. I've seen this book so many places and am anxious to read it someday. Great review!!
    By the way, I received my box of books from Hatchette yesterday and Dewey today. Thank you so much!!

  6. Jen - You're welcome! I'm glad Dewey finally arrived!

    April - This one does seem to be making the rounds. I am glad you got the books! I guess they had a lot of requests for Dewey because it seemed to be the one most often back ordered.

  7. Can't decide. I don't like creepy villains where the creepiness is described in great and creepy detail. But the themes and the plot sound interesting.


  8. Sherry - I can understand that. Too much creepiness is not such a good thing.


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