Diane Prather

Diane Prather

Diane Prather: 'First Family' keeps reader turning the pages

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— Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, private detectives, were the central characters in "Simple Genius," a No. 1 New York Times bestseller by author David Baldacci.

Now the two detectives have returned in Baldacci's most recent novel, "First Family." There are lots of other characters, as well, and the novel is packed with suspense and surprises.

The book begins with a birthday party.

The guest of honor is 12-year-old Willa Dutton. The party is taking place at a bowling center, where 12 guests are enjoying the usual birthday activities. However, this party is far from ordinary.

The setting is Camp David, where Marines march by with their weapons ready, and the Secret Service is present. The party planner and chief chaperone is Jane Cox, the First Lady of the United States.

She's married to Dan Cox, the president.

Also present is Pam Dutton, Jane's sister-in-law. Tuck Dutton is Pam's brother. The couple has two other children.

Later, back at the White House, Jane takes off her shoes and drinks a cup of tea. It's growing dark, and soon Jane will be hosting a reception. She has no idea what's about to happen at the Dutton house, 20 miles away.

Detectives Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are about to find out. They're headed to the Dutton home with a birthday present for Willa. Sean knows the Duttons through Jane Fox. He and Jane are friends because he once did a favor for the first lady.

The Dutton house is dark. It appears that the family isn't home, but then there's a woman's scream.

Sean and Michelle hurry to the door to investigate. Bullets race past them and riddle Sean's car. A truck races off.

Inside, the detectives find Pam Dutton lying on the floor. She's dead.

Upstairs, John and Colleen, the children, are lying unconscious on their beds. They've been drugged. Tuck is lying on the bedroom floor. He's been knocked on the head, but he's alive.

Willa is gone, apparently kidnapped.

Michelle finds an empty vial next to Pam's body. The detectives wonder if someone took some of Pam's blood.

The police arrive. So does the FBI.

After all, the victims have ties to the White House.

Sean and Michelle don't want to get involved, and the FBI doesn't want them involved, either. But Jane Fox intervenes. She trusts Sean and wants him to find Willa.

Earlier, in another part of the city, Diane Wohl had left work early to take advantage of a sale. When she got to her car with the purchases, she found a man waiting for her. The man made Diane drive to another location, where he put a canister to her face. Diane was taken away.

Sam Quarry owns Atlee Plantation, an old plantation. His 200 acres are complete with a mountain with an old mine shaft built into it.

Sam owns an airplane, too.

At present, three members of the Koasati Indian tribe live on Sam's property. Sam's housekeeper and her son Gabriel live in the main house with Sam. Sam has a son, too, who is grown up. Sam's daughter Tippi lies in a nursing home, hooked up to machines that keep her alive. Sam's wife has died.

Besides the plot that is built around Willa's kidnapping, detective Michelle Maxwell has her own problems.

The reader gets a hint of what's going on for her in the prologue of the book. Why would Michelle crawl through the window of a three-story cinderblock building at night, make copies of her file in a "shrink's" office, crawl back out of the building, and speed off in her SUV?

This "you just have to keep turning the pages" novel is published by Grand Central Publishing (2009), a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

It costs $28.99 in hardcover and is a new book at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries. It's available in large print.

Copyright Diane Prather, 2009. All rights reserved.

Copyright Diane Prather, 2009. All rights reserved.

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