I seem to be having a year of discovery this year as, yes, once again, this is the first book of David Baldacci’s that I’ve read. Having torn through One Good Deed, I know that it won’t be the last. I’m kind of hoping that it’s not the last I see of the book’s protagonist, Aloysius Archer, too as I really kind of liked him. Before I share my thoughts, here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
Murder and family secrets, a touch of romance and deeply-felt revenge – with the twist of all twists – make up the perfect page-turning thriller, One Good Deed.Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books
For all those who love mystery, crime, Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie from one of the world’s bestselling thriller writers, David Baldacci.
In 1949, Aloysius Archer arrives in the dusty Southern town of Poca City. He has nothing but a handful of dollars, the clothes he’s wearing and an appointment with his new parole officer. After his wartime experiences in Italy and a prison sentence for a crime he didn’t commit, Archer is looking for a fresh start and a peaceful life.
On his first night of freedom, Archer meets local business tycoon Hank Pittleman, who promises Archer handsome compensation to work as his debt collector. Yet Archer takes on more than he bargains for, as he becomes embroiled in a long-running feud between the drought-struck town’s most dangerous residents. When one of them dies, the authorities label Archer as their number one suspect.
A bloody game is being played above and below the law. Everybody playing has a deeply buried secret, and Archer must uncover them all – if he’s to avoid going back behind bars.
I have to be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up this book. I did my usual, agreeing to read without really taking a look at the blurb because I figure why spoil the journey of a good story by the loading yourself down with the weight of expectation. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction and, set in 1949, that is exactly what this is. I do however love American literature from that era, I love brilliant stories and I really love fascinating characters and in One Good Deed, I get all that and more.
This is the story of Aloysius Archer, former solider and newly released prisoner who is on the way to a brand new start in Poca City. The plan is to keep his head down, serve his time out on parole and then move on, provided, that is, that the town and his past will let him. Within moments of arriving in town he is already breaking the conditions of his parole, albeit in a rather minor way, but it is a decision which will put him once again on the hook for a crime he did not commit, one that this time could see him facing, at the very best, life back in prison.
I will admit that I found myself drawn to the character of Archer straight away. Although he is fresh from prison, there was something very calm and measured about his character that instilled trust and belief from the off. The author has pitched him just right. He never overly protests his innocence, merely states his case and allows for others to make their own minds up. He is cautious and intelligent, but he is no pushover. And in a town, and a time, that is still very much dominated by male authority, he is respectful and honourable when it comes to the ladies in his life. I couldn’t help but be invested in his attempts to make good and, ultimately, to prove his innocence when faced with an accusation and eventual charge of murder.
This is a good old fashioned mystery, a who-dunnit if you like, and in the town of Poca City, a self made man like Hank Pittleman has no end of people who sing his praises, but perhaps one or two more who would gladly see him dead too. Sadly for Archer he is the prime suspect and the story largely revolves around his attempts to prove his innocence and to work out who was responsible and why they are trying to frame him. We are thrown a myriad of suspects, mixed with a slow reveal of alternative motives for the murder which will made me question my own understanding and logic at times. The only person I really never suspected was Archer, the only man actually in the frame and thankfully the lead Detective, Shaw, felt the same. Archer needed someone on his side.
I loved the way in which the author depicted the town of Poca City and the surrounding landscape. You really got that feeling of a small town whose fortunes are beholden to the victim, a heady mix of regular citizens and ex-cons, all of whom could have axes to grind. I really got a feeling for the landscape and found myself immersed in the world of post war America, a time when the American dream was still a vision for every man to aspire to.
The book felt very authentic, drawing on the setting and characters to establish the underlying mysogynistic sentiment which dominated at the time. That is not to say that there were not strong female characters in the book. Quite the opposite. Firstly Ernestine Crabtree, Archer’s Parole Officer. She may seem quite straight laced but she is not entirely as you might expect. Then there is Jackie Tuttle, daughter of the man whose debt Archer is employed to collect by Hank Pittleman. She plays a role, one which would have feminists cringing, but one which serves her needs. Both of them have a substantial impact upon Archer’s life and fortune and the chemistry between the characters is played perfectly.
I really don’t want to say too much more about the book as I feel you really need to read it to appreciate it. I really found myself hooked, turning page after page and not wanting to leave Archer’s world. Towards the end I was racing through, desperate to see him find some justice and to prove his innocence, the final truth of the whole affair managing to come as a surprise despite all of my best guess work. It really is a book which has a kind of old fashioned sensibility and charm, wrapped around a delightfully complex mystery. As I said earlier, I would hope it’s not the last we see of Archer, as he has a character who definitely has scope for development and I’d love at least one more story. Or two? Three maybe.
A gripping, page-turning mystery and highly recommended.
About the Author
David Baldacci is one of the world’s bestselling and favourite thriller writers. With over 130 million copies in print, his books are published in over eighty territories and forty-five languages, and have been adapted for both feature-film and television. David is also the co-founder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation®, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across the US.
Trust him to take you to the action.