One Good Deed

Written by David Baldacci
Review by Bryan Dumas

Aloysius Archer walks out of prison and takes the first bus to Poca City. A former World War II soldier, Archer is determined to do everything he can to stay out of prison. With a couple dollars in his pocket and a list of parolee Do’s and Don’ts, both courtesy of the Carderock Prison, Archer checks himself into a hotel. The first thing that Archer needs to do is find work. But the work he finds drags him into a fight between Poca City’s two wealthiest men—Hank Pittleman and Lucas Tuttle. Hank wants Archer to collect a debt owed by Lucas. Complicating matters is the fact that Lucas’ estranged daughter, Jackie, is Hank’s mistress and Lucas won’t pay up until Jackie comes home. When Hank is found dead, all eyes turn to Archer, including those of State Detective Irving Shaw. As the body count grows, Archer finds himself in a desperate race to prove his innocence and stay out of jail.

Set in 1949, One Good Deed is an interesting departure from Baldacci’s modern thrillers. Baldacci dips his toes in historical fiction but runs into trouble with long, overly detailed description of the time including dress and décor. Some readers will feel immersed; I felt a need to skim. Baldacci adds layers upon layers of secrets which are revealed in a dramatic court case. Having Shaw adopt Archer as his helper in solving the case seemed odd—a detective and ex-con investigating the ex-con’s possible role in a murder—and the explanation that they both served in WWII as the bridge of trust was plausible, but only thinly. Baldacci is a master of pace and plotting, and One Good Deed doesn’t let up on the throttle. A good ´40s noir with a likable lead character in a town filled with miscreants.