RoadTrip America

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First Family, by David Baldacci (Read by Ron McLarty)

The title of this book could have been "First Lady," since she is the character who seems to be in control of things and is at the heart of most of what happens in this thrilling story. When her favorite niece is kidnapped after a birthday party at Camp David, First Lady Pam Dutton asks former special agent Sean King to assist the FBI in the investigation. Early in her husband's career, Sean King had saved the then-Senator's reputation and career. Impressed with his skill and loyalty, the First Lady once again turns to Sean. He and his partner, Michelle Maxwell, quickly find themselves dealing with murder and multiple kidnappings. As they work feverishly to find the young girl's abductor and return her to her family unharmed, Michelle learns that her own mother has been murdered in an unrelated crime. Leaving Sean to work the case alone she returns home where she faces childhood demons and modern day dangers. Meanwhile, Sam Quarry, a 62-year-old man with a comatose daughter on life support, surfaces early in the story as the mastermind behind the presidential killings and kidnappings, but his motives elude the listener until the suspense-filled conclusion.

Baldacci has written another gripping, action-packed thriller with an intricate plot and fascinating characters. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell exhibit personal flaws along with their extreme bravery, resourcefulness, strength and intelligence. Sam Quarry, although the obvious villain, is at times sensitive, caring and compassionate and at other times ruthless. Pam Dutton and her family members are at times either extremely weak or exceptionally strong, but always motivated by blind ambition. McLarty is equally adept at portraying the heroic and villainous characters. His pace and delivery keep the listener engaged and entertained, eagerly anticipating the next plot twist.

Besides being an engrossing story, First Family deals with several important themes. It illustrates how actions in the past can have a way of affecting the future in unexpected and devastating ways. It shows how power corrupts the innocent and how the corrupt use power to become even more corrupt. And it points out how deep love can foster bitter hatred that can only bring unhappiness to everyone involved. Baldacci fans will not be disappointed in this mesmerizing audio book. Highly recommended.

John Mormon

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