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First Lady Down by Daniel A. Adams gets the reader’s attention with the novel’s first line. It’s hard to imagine a reader who would not be intrigued by the visual image the author paints of a sniper aiming to shoot the United States president as he speaks before a roaring crowd in Washington, D.C. When the sniper’s bullet completely misses the President and instead destroys the First Lady’s head, the intrigue intensifies. What follows is an interesting “cop-drama style” plot that pits good against evil in the search for the killer or killers, with enough twists and turns to make it worth working your way to the ending.
Adams does an excellent job of creating strong visual images as he draws the reader from one intense, rapid-action scene to the next. But the intensity at times overwhelms and the situations seem to be drawn from one television police drama or another. Flip randomly through a hard back copy of the book and you’re likely to land on page containing a machine gun shootout or racing automobile aimed at the protagonist. Some readers might find this appealing and for those readers the book will please, but about halfway through the book I found myself speed-reading through what probably had been intended as the most exciting parts.
Adams has good writing skills and presents action well, but as a reader I never truly engaged with the book’s rather clichéd characters. I was interested in the action and the plot, but not emotionally invested with the characters. I just did not care about the outcome when someone was shooting at someone else, and that probably explains why I tired of the action scenes.
The short, staccato delivery of sentences used in most of the action sequences made me feel as if I was mentally running “short of breath”. When more than three or four or more very short sentences were used in sequence and repetitively, it made me start working through the writing faster and faster, effectively tiring me out. I was ready for the action to end, not out of concern for the endangered characters but just so I could take a mental breath from the intensity. Action scenes also seemed to include very long paragraphs, which heightened the intensity. Shorter paragraphs would help slow the reader down.
The book would make a great television or movie script, with actors who instilled more life into the characters, or added maybe a few unique quirks that would make the characters stand apart from the many similar personas often found in this type of novel.
Readers who enjoy a great deal of action might enjoy this book, but I like to get wrapped up in a book’s characters to the point that I think about those characters when I’m no longer reading the book. That didn’t happen for me with First Lady Down and that’s why I have rated it a 2 out of 4. The writer has good ideas and excellent description of action, just needs to work on a few issues with intensity and character development.
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