In One Good Deed, bestselling author David Baldacci introduces readers to an unforgettable new character. Archer is a straight-talking former World War II soldier. And he’s just been released from prison after serving time for a crime he didn’t commit.
It’s 1949. Aloysius Archer is released from Carderock Prison and paroled to Poca City. His parole officer, the beautiful but stern Ernestine Crabtree, gives him a much shorter list of do’s than the lengthy list of don’ts. Do report regularly to his parole officer. Don’t go to bars. Don’t drink alcohol, of course. Do get a job. And don’t ever associate with loose women.
Poca City is a small town where all of the locals know each other. It’s complicated and more dangerous than Archer’s years serving in the war or his stint in prison. Within a single night, his search for gainful employment — and a stiff drink — leads him to a local bar (two don’ts), where he is hired for what seems like a simple, straight-forward job. He is to collect a debt owed to a powerful local businessman, Hank Pittleman. Or collect the 1947 Cadillac sedan used as collateral to secure the loan.
Soon Archer discovers that recovering the debt won’t be easy at all. The debtor, Lucas Tuttle, has a furious grudge against Hank and refuses to pay. Hank’s clever mistress, Jackie, has her own designs on Archer. And both Hank and Miss Crabtree, are keeping a sharp eye on him.
A murder takes place right under Archer’s nose. Naturally, the police suspect the ex-convict. The crime could send Archer right back to prison . . . if he doesn’t use every skill in his arsenal to track down the real killer.
In One Good Deed, acclaimed author David Baldacci introduces Aloysius Archer, a man with no home, no roots, and a mysterious, complicated past, who finds himself fighting against the odds to maintain his hard-won freedom.
Archer served during World War II and carries the memories of those harrowing days with him. He managed to survive when so many of his fellow soldiers did not, picking up skills that he must now rely upon in order to secure his survival yet again. Baldacci holds back the details about how Archer, not yet thirty years old, came to be wrongly convicted and imprisoned as readers puzzle over whether Archer is truly an honorable, principled man, an anti-hero, or a combination of both. He arrives in the small, evolving town of Poca City with a few bucks in his pocket, the clothes on his back, a past he doesn’t want to discuss, and no prospects for the future.
Archer quickly finds his way to a place he is not supposed to frequent, The Cat’s Meow, sidles up to the bar, and orders himself a shot of bourbon. Sitting next to him is a late-fifties-something, slick-haired banker type in a white three-piece suit and Panama hat. A beautiful young woman half his age is with him, and Archer observes him treat her like a piece of property. She does not protest. Hank Pittleman is known as the richest and most powerful man in Poca City, and he offers Decker the chance to earn one hundred dollars. All he has to do is what other men before him have failed to accomplish: either collect the five thousand dollars, plus interest, that Lucas Tuttle owes Pittleman, or take possession of Tuttle’s 1947 Cadillac Series 62 dark green sedan. Pittleman gives Archer an advance, but assures him that his “money has long strings attached. Same as Tuttle’s. And I demand honesty and integrity in my associates. Expect the same of myself.”
With the advance, Archer buys a new suit, settles into the local hotel, and assures Ernestine that he has already secured employment. But, of course, earning the rest of the money is not going to be simple.
During the war, I guess we were all part of something bigger than ourselves. Then the war was over, and it just left us with what we started with, but wanting something more than what we had before. But I think to really be part of something special, you have to find something special in yourself first. ~~ Archer in One Good Deed
Since he has never been to Poca City before, Archer is unaware of the long, complicated history between Pittleman and Tuttle, or the extent of Pittleman’s business interests, influence in the region, or associates with their own agendas and loyalties. He soon learns that Jackie, Pittleman’s young mistress, is Jackie Tuttle, the daughter of none other than Lucas Tuttle, from whom he is expected to collect payment. In short order, he finds out that Tuttle has an agenda all his own, and imposes a very specific condition under which he will agree to repay the debt. It falls to Archer to attempt to convince Jackie to comply with Tuttle’s demand. But, of course, she has no intention of complying.
When a murder takes place in the same hotel where Archer is staying, and he discovers the body, he makes a quick decision about how to respond. His choice could seal his fate. However, the homicide detective assigned to the case, Lieutenant Irving Shaw with the state police, senses there is more to Archer and his past than is readily apparent. For one thing, Archer has good investigative instincts. His military background and insistence that he did not commit the crime for which he served time convince Shaw to enlist Archer’s assistance with solving the murder. Their relationship is not without its complications, especially when Shaw learns that Archer has not been completely forthcoming with him. But the two men forge a partnership that requires Archer to dig deeper into the web of business dealings, resentments, grudge matches, and complicated relationships that knit the citizens of Poca City together — and tore them apart long before Archer’s arrival. As the stakes are raised higher and higher, Archer tells himself, “You survived the war, you can damn well survive this, Archer. I hope.”
One Good Deed is already a number one New York Times bestseller. Deservedly so. It’s a stylish, fast-paced mystery in which Baldacci exquisitely invokes post-World War II — a hopeful, exciting time in America. Fresh from victory, the country’s soldiers returned home to their families and jobs. It was a time of technological development, industrialization, and the growth of many U.S. cities. Poca City is on the cusp of development that will bring posterity to an area that suffers from a lack of water. And Baldacci’s supporting characters are plotting and clamoring to profit from that development. With his deft prose, Baldacci describes the settings, as well as the clothing, mannerisms, the manner in which his characters speak, and popular culture, drawing readers into that time and place. For instance, Ernestine and Archer share a love of books and reading, and discuss popular literature; meetings occur in the local cafe where the staff know everyone and everyone’s business, as does the hotel clerk stationed at the front desk.
Invoking his signature style, Baldacci injects unpredictable, shocking plot twists and revelations at perfectly timed junctures, compelling the story forward at an unrelenting pace. Baldacci’s carefully crafted web of connections between the characters, their tangled dealings with each other, and double-crosses are nothing short of ingenious, and with each disclosure it is clear that Baldacci might have still more surprises in store. Indeed, he does. Right up to the jaw-dropping conclusion.
One Good Deed is an exciting and promising start to yet another series from an author who seems to never lack inspiration and is clearly at the top of his game. Archer is a thoroughly intriguing and endearing character, and Baldacci can be counted on to take Archer on more entertaining and engrossing adventures in future installments. Hopefully, he’ll do so soon.
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