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The First Counsel Paperback – September 20, 2001

262 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Aficionados of the hit TV show The West Wing who are suffering through holiday reruns will jump right into Brad Meltzer's third novel (after The Tenth Justice and Dead Even), which takes readers into the White House office of the president's own law firm and introduces a first daughter whose complex psychological problems jump-start this fast-paced thriller. Michael Garrick loves his job as deputy counsel, but when he falls for Nora Hartson, the president's daughter, the conflict between his professional ethics and his growing love for her puts him right in the middle of a murder plot that may reach all the way to the Oval Office.

Meltzer excels at plotting, and he knows the back corridors, family quarters, and secret tunnels of the executive branch as well as those of the Supreme Court, which he revealed in his first two blockbusters. He's not as skillful at characterization. It's hard to believe that the sociopathic tendencies of people in a president's inner circle--or even his family--would have managed to escape the scrutiny of an FBI investigation during his rise to power. And Nora, in particular, doesn't quite come off as the misguided victim she must be in order to make the rest of the story credible. But that's not a huge quibble; Meltzer manages to make Edgar Simon, Michael's boss, the most interesting White House counsel since John Dean. The First Counsel is a cleverly commercial mix of legal thriller and political chicanery guaranteed to keep you turning pages until Meltzer puts the third branch of government in his sights, too. --Jane Adams --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A man faces a lot of pressure when dating the first daughter of the U.S., especially if she is sexy, rebellious and maybe a little bit crazy like Nora Hartson. But young White House lawyer Michael Garrick thinks he is up to the task. Their first date begins with a wild car chase to shake off Nora's ever-present Secret Service tail and ends when Nora and Michael see something they were never meant to see something that will put Michael's career, and his life, in danger. As witnesses to an ever-widening conspiracy, Michael and Nora find themselves tangled in a web of intrigue and under suspicion for murder. As the pressure increases, Nora makes herself scarce; when she does surface, she seems even more vulnerable and crazed, leaving Michael to decide if she is, in fact, part of the conspiracy or, like him, a victim of it. As he tries to make sense of the trap surrounding him, he finds himself not knowing whom, if anyone, to trust. Sweeney's reading is the perfect match for Meltzer's fast-paced and witty writing. With a raspy voice reminiscent of a young Martin Sheen, Sweeney brings to life Michael's anxious cockiness in a palpable manner. Simultaneous release with the Warner hardcover (Forecasts, Nov. 6, 2000).

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperback (September 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340769386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340769386
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 1.2 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (262 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,813,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Brad Meltzer is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Inner Circle and The Book of Fate, as well as the bestsellers The Tenth Justice, Dead Even, The First Counsel, The Millionaires, The Zero Game, and The Book of Lies. He is also the author of the nonfiction bestsellers, Heroes For My Son and Heroes For My Daughter, collecting heroes from Jim Henson, to Rosa Parks, to Mr. Rogers. Brad is also the host of the History Channel TV show, Brad Meltzer's Decoded -- one of the co-creators of the TV show, "Jack & Bobby" -- and is the #1 selling author of the critically-acclaimed comic books, Identity Crisis and Justice League of America, for which he won the prestigious Eisner Award. His newest book, The Fifth Assassin, will be published in January 2013.

Raised in Brooklyn and Miami, Brad is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Columbia Law School. You can find him regularly on or at

For authenticity, The Book of Fate was researched with the help of former Presidents Clinton and Bush. He was selected by the Department of Homeland Security to brainstorm different ways that terrorists can attack the US. The Inner Circle is about a young archivist in the National Archives who finds out that George Washington's secret spy ring still exists to this very day.

His books have spent nearly a year on the bestseller lists, and have been translated into over 25 languages, from Hebrew to Bulgarian. In The Tenth Justice, the opening lines are: "Ben Addison was sweating. Like a pig." In the Hebrew translation, it became: "Ben Addison was sweating. Like a horse." We're not sure if it's a kosher thing or what.

Brad has played himself as an extra in Woody Allen's Celebrity and earned credit from Columbia Law School for writing his first book, which became The Tenth Justice. He also co-wrote the oath that the President of the United States gives to all AmeriCorps members. Before all of that, he got 24 rejection letters for his true first novel, which still sits on his shelf, published by Kinko's.

Brad currently lives in Florida with his wife, who's also an attorney.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Bill Garrison VINE VOICE on January 24, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The First Counsel is one of the best books I have read in a long time. This is the first Meltzer book I've read, and as is usually the case, the first book by an author is usually my favorite since you don't have any clue as to how the author writes or where he is going with the story.
This book truly was a page turner and very easy to read. Instead of telling us, Meltzer uses a lot of dialogue to keep the story moving quickly. Authors like James Patterson are easy to read but his novels are so short. When I read Scott Turow, just a few pages wore me out. The First Counsel is full of twists and turns and substance and easy to read 60 to 70 pages at a time.
The opening chapter had me hooked. White House lawyer Michael Garrick is dating the president's daughter Nora. They elude the secret service and see Garrick's boss Edgar Simon at a gay bar. Simon then drives out into the forest to make a drop of $40,000. Nora and Michael go exploring and Nora takes some of the money. From there a murder is committed and the evidence keeps mounting against Michael.
I enjoyed this book so much because most of the action revolved around the White House, which seemed very intriguing to me. The First Daugher Nora was also a great character. She just wanted to live a normal life but had so many flaws. As the book draws to an end, we have to see if Michael can figure out who is trying to frame him and keep from getting killed. We also have to see how Michael and Nora's relationship worked out. I admit that I liked this book because the idea of dating the president's daughter seemed cool to me. The idea of any kind of outsider having access to the White House is intriguing.
This is one of those books where getting to the end is half the fun. Meltzer takes the reader on a great ride.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Brad Meltzer has written a slick thriller that is, indeed, a "page turner". His knowledge of the White House is superb and we are led skillfully through corridors of power, mystery and intrigue at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The dialogue is good. The plot holds our interest to the very end. The characters, however, are not even remotely believable. The behavior and problems of Nora, the First Daughter, could never have escaped the scrutiny of the FBI or the media. Michael, our earnest young hero, puzzles us as he persists in a relationship with a bizarre young woman the reader will see immediately as out of control, manipulative and self-serving.
Edgar Simon, Michael's boss, could be a fascinating study, but he is portrayed in a superficial manner, as are the other "players" in the story.
Despite the contrived ending, including the probable solution to Michael's tribulations with his father, those who read the book will be swept along by the momentum of the tale and will enjoy it for what it is. It is only by comparison with the author's fine first novel, The Tenth Justice, that we preceive the flaws in this book and are disappointed.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Having never read any of Brad Meltzers books prior to this fine novel, I was intrigued when I found him popping up now and then on nationwide television to discuss the White House and the subject of the children of our Presidents (The First Daughters). It certainly piqued my interest in this book, and once I started it, I was unable to put it down. It was a pager turner of a book that never really slowed down. While so many authors have a difficult sustaining the suspense and drama for a book this size (480 pages), I found that Meltzter kept things moving even through the middle part of the book. While some of the characters could have been developed better, I found that for a 3rd novel by a young author he has done a great job of getting down the plot and even getting the reader to believe in the characters backgrounds and faults. From the main character,Michael Garrick, to Edgar Simon (the true first counsel) to all the junior White House attorneys and aids, every character played an integral part in this book. I had heard the author mention that he had spoken to every First Daughter from the LBJ presidency to the Clintons, and it certainly has paid off, as he has provided a great insight into what the life of a First Daughter or First Son must be like. Obviously not every child of a President will not be subject to the intrigue and problems of Nora, the fact of the matter is that Meltzer has brought the plight of so many children whose parents are the President and First Lady. One of the most underrated parts of the book was the First Ladies Birthday party, arranged as part a national interview, and the First Ladies reaction to her childrens present. I have a distinct feeling that he will have hit a nerve with this incident.Read more ›
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 7, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
No one expects deep insights into reality from genre fiction, but some rules do apply--like the characters and their actions ought to be somewhere within the realm of conceivably possible, and the resolution should actually resolve. This book fails on both scores.
The premise turns on (at least) two absurdities: (a) a Counsel to the President, thirty years married, stupid enough to hang out in a gay bar. A few weeks before an election, no less. Uh-huh. Like everyone in that bar, he knows, belongs to his political party? Like none of them would delight in gossip? Yeah, right. (b) An assistant to said counsel, smart enough and mature enough to have made it to the inner sanctum by age twenty-seven, who-with two years of White House experience under his belt-nevertheless acts with the prudence and judgment of an eighth grader lost in puppy love? E.G., when accused of a serious, serious crime, he keeps to himself that his one-date girlfriend (who could be corroborated at least in part by a D.C. cop) can attest his innocence--because he wants to "protect" his one-date girlfriend? Said "girlfriend," not to mention, having put his life and reputation in danger and acted extremely irresponsibly on that one date? And whom he continues to protect despite her obvious derangement-and her doing things like drugging him (without his knowledge) for fun?
And the resolution is just silly. The authorities believe the protagonist to be a murdering black mailer. He proves that two people he's apparently killed really had something to hide--and somehow this gets him off? Isn't having something to hide consistent with being blackmailed--like, kind of absolutely by defitnition? Can you blackmail someone who DOESN'T have something to hide?
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