A Soldier And A Hero:
The astonishingly prolific David Baldacci, whose books come out at a dizzying frequency, without any drop in quality, creates a new hero, Aloysius Archer for his new novel, One Good Deed, a period thriller, set in 1949. The absence of modern communication devices does not in any way hamper the suspense or pacing of the story.
A World War II veteran, Aloysius Archer, was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. Released on parole for good behavior, he is given some money and orders to go to Poca City, where he is to be on his best behavior; this means he has to report regularly to his parole officer, get a job, stay away from booze and “loose” women.
The small town seems placid, but that’s just a façade; as soon as Archer (he dislikes his first name) arrives in Poca City, people start dropping dead, and he always happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He checks into the seedy Derby Hotel and his woes begin when he bends one of the rules to go into a bar, whimsically named The Cat’s Meow, where he is hired by powerful local businessman, Hank Pittleman, to collect a debt owed to him by his rival Lucas Tuttle. Pittleman has on his arm, the young and stylish Jackie, one of the two beautiful (is there any other kind?) femmes fatales, who appear in the novel to bedevil Archer; the other being his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree.
Archer accepts the job, even though it sounds problematic, mainly because the only other job available to a parolee is the pig slaughterhouse. The first thing Archer does with the generous advance paid to him is dump his threadbare suit and get himself fancy new clothes.
Tuttle has good reason not to pay Pittleman his money back, and he offers Archer bigger sum to do his bidding. But then the first murder takes place when he is “fooling around” with Jackie and getting drunk—both forbidden to him– and things go downhill from there on.
Luckily for him, the investigator, Irving Shaw, believes that Archer is innocent and enlists his help in cracking the case, which takes both men all over the town, to see for themselves that its denizens are not as guileless as they appear. Everyone has a back story and a secret or two.
Since Archer has to either prove he is not guilty, or be hauled back to jail, he has to make all efforts to find the real killer. He also has to defend himself in court, since he cannot afford a lawyer, and the scene in which he traps the killer is absolutely gripping. While Archer and Shaw chase clues, Baldacci paints a vivid picture of the period, describing outfits, cars, food homes, so that the reader can imagine them.
The ending is unexpected, and there is scope for more Aloysius Archer books; Shaw suggests that Archer consider a career as a shamus, a prospect that would make a Baldacci fan eagerly wait for the next novel.
One Good Deed
By David Baldacci
Publisher: Pan Macmillan