Book Talk: 'One Good Deed,' another great book
When I read “Absolute Power” by David Baldacci 25 years ago and then saw the movie adaptation, starring Clint Eastwood, I hoped that Baldacci would write another thriller. Over the past two and a half decades, he’s written 39 more, as well as seven books for young adults.
Many of his offerings are parts of series: Will Robie (5 books), Memory Man (5 books), John Puller (4 books), King and Maxwell (6 books), and The Camel Club (5 books). However, the one that I just finished, “One Good Deed,” was advertised as a “stand-alone” novel in 2020.
Unlike most of Baldacci’s works, which have a contemporary feel, this story is set in the years just after the end of WWII. Aloysius Archer, who had seen a great deal of combat during the war, is released after serving time in Carderock Prison for a crime that he didn’t commit. When he gets off the bus in Poca City, he has just enough money for a drink and a meal.
At the Cat’s Meow, he meets Hank Pittleman and Hank’s girlfriend Jackie Tuttle. Jackie’s father, Lucas, has borrowed $5,000 from Hank, using his Cadillac as collateral. However, Lucas has refused to turn the car over to Hank. Hank gives Archer $100 to get the car.
Archer is not the type to snatch the car off Lucas’s property, and he confronts Lucas, explaining that his job is to claim the automobile. Lucas agrees that he owes the money to Hank and that he’ll repay the debt, but only if he gets his daughter back from Hank’s clutches. And Hank, a man of dubious character, is married to another woman.
The plot, which has been fairly straightforward so far, becomes complicated when Archer finds that the Cadillac has been torched. Because he believes that he’ll have to return the $100, Archer goes to work at a hog slaughterhouse because he’s on parole and must be employed.
One night, he sees Jackie struggling with a heavily inebriated Hank near the Cat’s Meow. He helps Jackie get Hank to a hotel room, which happens to be just down the hall from his own. Predictably, Archer and Jackie wind up in bed together, and Hank is found the next morning with his throat cut.
The murder case falls into the lap of Lieutenant Detective Irwin Shaw, who suspects Jackie’s father and finds Archer’s shrewd observations valuable. In essence, Archer and Shaw function as if they are partners, trying to solve the mystery.
Archer, in fact, is so good at detective work that I suspect that this book was not really a “stand alone,” but rather the first book in a new Baldacci series. Because the book is set in the small-town America of seven decades ago, the dialogue, morality, and detective methods will remind the reader of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler.
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Jim Glynn may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.