First Family by David Baldacci

January 2, 2010

first-family Plot summary (with spoilers): The night after celebrating her 12th birthday at the Camp David presidential retreat, Willa Dutton is abducted from her home in nearby Virginia. Her two siblings and father Tuck are unharmed, but her mother Pam had her throat slit and died at the scene. Willa is the president’s niece, so the FBI and Secret Service descend on the Dutton house to scour the place for clues that will help them track down the girl. Also there are former agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, who pulled up just as the gunmen were making their getaway with the girl. The two had been on their way to meet with Pam, who had anxiously phoned Sean for help with an unknown problem.

Later on, Jane Cox, the First Lady of the United States, calls Sean and Michelle to her office. She would like them to work the case in an unofficial capacity, with her full backing. Jane and Sean have a history that dates back 12 years, and she feels she can trust him more than any of the agents.

Sean and Michelle start to run into roadblocks in their investigation almost immediately. Neither Tuck nor his sister Jane are as forthcoming as they should be, which leads the to investigators to think that Tuck might be involved somehow.

But readers soon find that’s not the case, since the point-of-view then switches to that of Sam Quarry, the real kidnapper. He doesn’t seem like a very dangerous guy, and in fact goes out of his way to make sure Willa — and another captive named Diane Wohl — are as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.

As the plot s-l-o-w-l-y unfolds, readers learn why Sam has kidnapped Willa, and just how the first family fits into the whole thing.


  • I tried really hard to think of a single thing I liked about this book — but came up empty. Seriously, reading through a pamphlet of life insurance quotes would be more exciting than this dreck.


  • I did my best to try to suspend my disbelief throughout the course of this novel, but Baldacci made it impossible to do so. The more he revealed of the plot, the more outlandish and ridiculous the whole thing became. Like some down-on-his-luck Alabama redneck would have the resources to kidnap the president’s niece? And the three screw-ups he sent to do the job actually came away with the girl? Uh huh.
  • How did Sam Quarry even figure out that Willa was the president’s daughter rather than her niece? There was no way he could have made that connection because there was no trail. No wonder Baldacci never explained this. The most he did was hint at an investigation that Quarry spent over a decade on, but even so, I call bullshit on discovering Willa’s parentage. There was never a news story involving Diana Wright, no medical records (since she gave birth in Italy). There was NO WAY for Quarry to figure that out.
  • The whole thing about Willa being able to pick locks AND fashion the required tools out of stuff lying around in her cell was utterly laughable.
  • Why would Tuck be so reluctant to admit to Sean and Michelle that Willa was adopted? What was the point of him being so cryptic? Yes, Jane had something to hide, so she of course didn’t want to say anything. But Tuck should have been focused on getting his daughter back. He didn’t know who Willa’s real father was either, so it made absolutely no sense for him not to cooperate with the investigation.
  • What was the bloody point of that whole subplot involving Michelle’s mom’s murder??? The detours into those scenes were so damned boring and unnecessary. In fact, they only served to remind me of how utterly stupid the main plot was. Um, shouldn’t there be a sense of urgency in trying to find the kidnapped girl? If the author felt there was enough time to dally in Tennessee for a few days, why would the reader feel any tension about the girl’s safety?
  • I hated the fact that Baldacci painted Dan and Jane Cox as decent people, only to turn the tables at the very end. I mean, it’s not fair for the author to show these people in their private moments behaving very decently to each other, acting like they’ve never done a bad thing in their entire lives — and then do a complete 180 at the end, congratulating each other on hiding the evidence and obstructing justice. Whatever.
  • Baldacci is not very good at developing suspense in a story. His idea of doing this is to simply build up a certain point until a crucial detail is needed, and then just leave that detail out and move on to something else entirely. Sorry, that’s not suspense. That’s just fucking with the reader, and it’s absolutely infuriating.

My Rating:

First Family by David Baldacci is one of the worst books I’ve ever read. The plot is completely ridiculous and implausible, and after taking his sweet time laying out the story in the most laborious, plodding, molasses-in-January way, Baldacci positively rushes through the ending. What a complete waste of time. I give this book 1 star out of 5

One Response to “First Family by David Baldacci”

  1. Brilliant review, very harsh but unfortunately accurate.
    It just felt like it was a melting pot of great ideas which got spewed out without caring how unbelievable and impossible it actually was.
    I couldn’t get past the twists and turns in Maxwells Mothers death, let alone the random confluence of events in which the first ladies family adopted the presidents child??

    Thank you for the review good to read my own conclusions articulated so clearly

Leave a Reply