Set in 1949, Baldacci opens his just-released new thriller with his latest protagionist, Aloysius Archer, finally walking free from prison after doing time for a crime he didn’t commit. But what begins as a breath of fresh air and new beginnings quickly takes a dark turn.
Hopping on the first bus he finds, Archer rides until he eventually gets off at a stop in Poca City with only the clothes on his back and the few bucks he had on him the day he was incarcerated. Admittedly, the former war veteran knows his future looks less than bright, and his not-so-promising situation is complicated further by the limitations—no bars, no women, especially loose women—presented to him by his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree, whom he is to check in with regularly.
On the top of his to-do list, according to the parole papers, is to seek gainful employment. Instead, deciding life is too short, Archer checks out of his cheap motel and winds up at The Cat’s Meow, a lively little dive bar where he orders a double-shot of Rebel Yell and ends up meeting a well-known banker named Hank Pittleman.
As it turns out, a man by the name of Lucas Tuttle owes Pittleman five thousand dollars, but hasn’t paid up and is now avoiding him. Producing a promissory note, Pittleman explains to Archer that to secure the loan, Tuttle agreed to put his dark-green 1947 Cadillac Series 62 sedan up for collateral, and he offers Archer a hundred bucks to go take the Caddy. Immediately, Archer is faced with a moral conundrum on his first night as a free man. Technically, the job isn’t illegal, but it ain’t far from it, and Archer would rather play it straight and avoid staying out of trouble. Then again, he needs the money—and his parole officer did tell him to find work. So, he takes the job and heads off to confront Tuttle, wondering why the man won’t just pay back the money he borrowed.
Though he’s greeted with a shotgun at the door, Archer is eventually invited inside by Tuttle, and the two men discuss the issue at hand. Tuttle makes no excuses as far as owing Pittleman the money, but when asked why he won’t just repay it, he reveals that Pittleman took something from him—something worth far more than five grand or a Cadillac.
Stunned by the turn of events, Archer realizes he’s caught up in something far bigger than he initially realized, and when a dead body turns up due to his poking around, he knows that one wrong move could land him right back in prison, or worse . . . a shallow grave.
David Baldacci is as solid as anyone, continuously churning out must-read thrillers at an unprecedented clip. Not only is this new series noteworthy for being his first historical fiction novel, but whereas his other books tend to be more mainstream thrillers, One Good Deed reads more like a mystery or crime thriller, taking on a slightly darker and grittier tone than his readers have come to expect. It’s a welcome change, as Baldacci nails the setting—capturing everything from the way things looked back in 1949 to how people spoke, adding realism and authenticity to the story. The characters are developed nicely, especially Archer, who flashes real star power throughout. Secondary characters, too, are fleshed out, and some of them carry their own dark secrets—making it hard to know who’s really good, and who’s really bad.
From Amos Decker to Will Robie, John Puller, and Atlee Pine, David Baldacci has a deep roster of main characters. His latest, Aloysius Archer, is one of his better heroes so far and should anchor what looks like an exciting new franchise for years to come.
Fast-paced and packed with plenty of suspense and misdirection, One Good Deed is classic Baldacci—who serves up another must-read thriller that’s not to be missed.
Author: David Baldacci
Series: Aloysius Archer # 1
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.