I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to jump into an author that already has an established series. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of time to go back and start reading from book one.
This is why I typically find what we call a “stand-alone” to read. These are titles that are independent of any series. Because of this, I often feel like a bit of an outsider when I hear people talking about the latest James Patterson or Lee Child.
Back in June, I was delighted to read the first book in a new series by Jeffery Deaver. I loved it and am eager to hear more from these new characters.
This month, I scored with a new title from David Baldacci. I actually haven’t read anything by him before, so I was excited to see that he, too, was starting a new series.
Ever hear the phrase “No good deed goes unpunished”? It is attributed to Clare Boothe Luce, an American playwright, author, politician and advocate.
Well, I think that Baldacci must have had her in mind for a bit, as his new novel, “One Good Deed,” has a male lead who has always tried to do what’s right, as well as several very opinionated and strong women who cause his path to veer off course.
The year is 1949. War veteran Aloysius Archer just got out of prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Of course, they all say that. But Archer was just trying to help out a lady when he was set up, and the young woman got cold feet and lied to the police about Archer’s involvement in a situation.
Things snowballed, and he was sent to Carderock, a miserable southern prison filled with miserable men who don’t seem to care about doing what’s right.
Archer did his time, read lots of books and was determined to get out and start a new life. Upon release, he was send to Poca City for parole. With a long list of don’ts and a short list of dos, Archer meets with his parole officer and ventures into town.
Against parole rules, Archer heads to a bar, where he meets some interesting characters and ultimately accepts a job offer. His task is to collect a debt from one wealthy man in town to give to another wealthy man.
Unfortunately, things don’t turn out quite that simply. He should have known. Archer is an honest man who carefully assesses any situation and is always full of questions. Sometimes too many questions for people’s liking.
This small town of Poca City isn’t as quiet and straightforward as one would expect. Once Archer figures out one twist in a story, another one comes around the bend. Eventually, his circumstances change so dramatically, he is without a place to sleep and doesn’t have any money for food. And things get even more interesting!
Before he’s asked to leave his motel, a murder takes place just a few doors down from his. And guess who is being interrogated? The ex-con, who happens to be a war veteran who has plenty experience with killing.
Archer finds that he must use every tool in his arsenal to help find the real killer, because the last place he wants to be is back at Carderock Prison.
Setting a novel in the 1940s is unusual for Baldacci. In an interview, he has stated that he enjoyed the experience because during the post-World War II time period, hopes were high all around the country as the citizenry was forced to pull themselves back up and start life anew.
Social issues changed as soldiers came back from fighting and needed to find a suitable occupation. Some of these men hadn’t been well-educated, and job prospects were typically lower-paying positions. Women had to shift their positions from working in businesses on the home front to going back to working at home.
Perhaps in following the traditions of journalism in the late ’40s, Baldacci writes with a clipped narrative, and the reader can almost sense a Sam Spade character coming to light.
The story also omits rough language. Certain adult situations are touched on with a brief nod, but are not spelled out with sordid details. I felt truly transported to a different time and was entirely intrigued by Archer.
I would love to read more books in this series in order to learn more about this unconventional man.