Eric Van Lustbader’s new novel, First Daughter is a philosophical book disguised as a suspense thriller. Jack McClure is an ATF agent, trying to cope with the death of his only child, and the breakup of his marriage. He is dyslexic and his whole life has struggled with the humiliation of keeping this a secret. His dyslexia has allowed his brain to perceive of unique patterns and has given him an ability to see the world in different ways, leading him to become one of the ATF’s top agents. Jack receives a call from an old friend, Edward Carson, asking his help in finding his kidnapped daughter, Allie. The case is complicated by the fact that Carson is the President-elect and due to be inaugurated in just a few weeks time. Even though the novel is ostensibly about the search and recovery of Allie, it deftly incorporates themes of faith and redemption, as well as highlighting the secular constitutional issues of today’s politics.
This is the first time I’ve read a novel by this author, and I’ve been really missing out on something good. The book is fast paced, with a fascinating portrayal of a man who’s lost everything except his career. His whole life, Jack has worked hard and made his career his top priority, and then in an instant, he learned just how skewed his priorities had become. This theme of the book rang true; too often we have to lose what’s the most important to us to notice how valuable it was. I was fascinated by the author’s depiction of Allie’s captivity. The psychological manipulation the kidnapper used on his victim was yet another realistic and well-written aspect of the novel.
Van Lustbader doesn’t shy from asking the “big” questions either. Faith is a large part of this novel. Cogent arguments are made for both the necessity of religious faith and the more pragmatic approach of a moral secularism. Morality itself is often addressed; where one man finds a compelling sense of moral obligation, another will see despicable manipulation. Often the author manages to warn us of political and religious agendas that are in direct opposition to a truly Constitutional form of government, all the while staying well within the boundaries of good story telling.
First Daughter is being released today, August 19th. Pick up a copy, it’s a worthwhile read!