Source: Review copy
Publication: 25th July 2019 from MacMillan
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 enjoyed the change of timeline from contemporary to historical in David Baldacci’s latest novel, One Good Deed. We are in the late 1940’s and our protagonist, former WW11 soldier Aloysius Archer, has just been released from Carderock prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Archer’s parole arrangement lands him in Poca City, a small, pleasant Midwestern town that is hiding dark secrets. His parole restrictions don’t allow alcohol, but Archer has built up a thirst in prison and so on his first night in Poca, he visits a bar. There he gets into conversation with Hank Pittleman and his companion, Jackie Tuttle. Hank is a businessman and he offers Archer a job, collecting a debt from Jackie’s father, Lucas Tuttle. Archer is about to get himself back into trouble – unless he is very careful.
He gets a much needed advance from Pittleman which he spends on decent clothes and a good meal before heading off to see Tuttle. Of course Tuttle doesn’t want to pay his debt and things get ever more complicated and deceitful when Archer is implicated in at least two murders.
There’s something dangerously seductive about Baldacci’s writing and though this is a big book, the pages slip easily by in this immersive, enticing read.
Archer is a great character, imbued with gently manners and with a huge naive blind spot when it comes to a pretty woman. His moral compass is sometimes quite shaky, but he knows where true north is, just not always the straightest way to get there.
Baldacci’s descriptive prose enables us to picture all the period details of this small Southern town with all the values of the time like the sexism; the casual acceptance of violence against women because its O.K. to slap a woman around if she’s your wife or chattel.
As events unfold Archer makes an unlikely ally in the local Police Detective and begins to learn the detecting business from scratch. He’s quick on the uptake and that’s going to be helpful as he sinks deeper into the town’s feuds and murky secrets.
Archer is a warm and engaging character and it’s hard not to root for him, even when it seems he can be a bit blind to what’s going on. If this is the start of a new series, (and I really hope it is) then it’s a great introduction to a fabulous new character.
Verdict: Mystery and suspense surround a fabulous new character in an enticing, engaging thriller that does not disappoint.
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.