If you liked Simple Genius, you'll find that First Family has many of the same appeals as well as a return of Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. This time Michelle closes in on the source of her childhood trauma . . . despite being ambivalent about finding out. The pair is overloaded with mysteries as the President's niece is kidnapped, the President's sister-in-law is murdered, and Michelle's mother is also killed. From the beginning, you'll follow the kidnappers but their motivation will be a mystery as well until near the end of the book. The book's key theme is the inevitability of justice being done . . . in one way or another.
The story starts pretty slowly but picks up speed around the middle. A good editor could have carved this book down by 150 pages, and it would have been a four-star novel. The remaining weakness is that Mr. Baldacci likes to exaggerate his characters just a little bit too much. As a result, they don't ring true in most cases. That makes it hard to live within the story as opposed to read about the characters. I thought that the mystery of Michelle's mother's death was pretty well done while the rest of the story was unnecessarily ponderous and sluggish. The best character in the book is the intelligent, resourceful, and poised kidnapped niece, Willa Dutton. The villain, Sam Quarry, is pretty entertaining as well for his contradictions. A book populated with more such characters that moved at a faster pace would have been a lot more fun.
Keep digging until you get to the bottom of every mystery!