We interrupt these positive book reviews for the unexpected... a review of a book I not only didn't like, but I didn't finish reading.
I first discovered First Family by David Baldacci while browsing the book selection at Costco. I've always enjoyed a good political thriller, especially when it's set in Washington, DC and involves the White House. And it looked like First Family was just such a book. I'd never read anything by Baldacci before, but made a mental note to check the book out sometime, perhaps at the library. Especially when I read the description on the book's dust jacket along with the praise, "David Baldacci's most heart-pounding thriller to date..."
The Book Summary:
"It began with what seemed like an ordinary children's birthday party. Friends and family gathered to celebrate. There were balloons and cake, games and gifts. This party, however, was far from ordinary. It was held at Camp David, the presidential retreat. And it ended with a daring kidnapping... which immediately turned into a national security nightmare. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell were not looking to become involved. As former Secret Service agents turned private investigators, they had no reason to be. The FBI doesn't want them interfering. But years ago, Sean King saved the First Lady's husband, then a senator, from political disaster. Now, Sean is the one person the First Lady trusts, and she presses Sean and Michelle into the desperate search to rescue the abducted child. With Michelle still battling her own demons, and forces aligned on all sides against her and Sean, the two are pushed to the absolute limit. In the race to save an innocent victim, the line between friend and foe will become impossible to define... or defend." (Summary courtesy of the publisher)
Because First Family is a new release (copyright April 2009) the book has been in high demand at my local library, but after only a month and a half wait I was finally able to pick up my reserved copy and began to read.
And thus followed a series of disappointments. The first being that I expected the story to closely follow the President and the First Lady, hence the title, right? Wrong. It's not actually about the First Family... it's about the First Lady's brother and his family and via them the President and First Lady. Ok, no big deal, it's close enough. I kept reading.
But then there was the two private detectives, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. First Family is clearly not the first book by Baldacci that King and Maxwell star, so as I read I felt I was missing a lot of back story and inside jokes. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I had first read the book where they initially appeared. Still, I kept reading.
First Family is filled with the typical amount of violence found in the book's genre and some sexual content, neither being too graphic, but both a little more than I was willing to handle at this time. The criminals appear hardened and nasty, or at the very least insane. The language is moderate yet frequent, with a fair amount of crude insults included. Added together the book began to lose me.
And call me critical, but I felt the writing style was cheap-fiction, the type of book an author cranks out in order to keep his/her name on the top seller list or to hurry up and meet a deadline in order to make the leap from bookshelf to movie theatre. The plot itself, while intriguing, just wasn't pulling me in like other political thrillers have. Instead I found myself wishing I was reading one or more of the books sitting on my nightstand.
And so I guess it is no surprise that by chapter 10 I called it quits and began flipping through the last two chapters to see how the author wrapped up the story. I was relieved to see I had made the right choice. The way the story ended I wouldn't have been happy, it wasn't at all what I expected and I am glad I didn't spend the time to read all 89 chapters and 452 pages.
The long and short of it is this, I just didn't find First Family a great or even good read. On a scale of 1-5 (1 being horrible and 5 being excellent), based on the 10 chapters I did read and 2 additional chapters I skimmed, I would rate First Family a 1.5 to 2. This is a book that's headed back to the library where someone else can give it a chance. As for me... I'm moving on to something else.