Everyone has the right to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty.” This legal principle of presumption of innocence has been the recurrent theme in fiction and it is no different in bestselling author David Baldacci’s latest offering.
One Good Deed introduces us to a new character: Archer. The setting isn’t contemporary, but is set in the America just recovering from World War II. The period is important and this is my first Baldacci novel that is a historical crime fiction.
It is 1949 and Aloysius Archer has been released on parole from Carderock prison. He is a former soldier, and the author ensures that we know that this protagonist is introduced as a straight talker and an innocent who was jailed for a crime he didn't commit. He is sent from his prison to a small southern city of Poca City for his parole.
The historical aspect is key to explaining the social, cultural and physical aspects of the location. It is important to see how women are treated based on the period. How a small town is trying to become a city is really important to the overall plot!
Meanwhile, Archer in his job hunt lands up at a local bar, where he is hired for, what at first glance, seems a simple job. He has to collect a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle to a powerful local businessman, Hank Pittleman. But Archer soon realises that the job isn’t that easy.
Then a murder takes place and Archer is, as is the wont in such plots, at the wrong place at the wrong time. Police invariably suspect the ex-convict and Archer has to track down the real killer to ensure that he doesn’t go back to prison a second time for a crime he didn’t commit.
The author in an interview has stated that he loved the 40s time period, particularly post-WWII, “when everyone was picking themselves back up and ambitions and hopes were running high around the country”.
He has said that this book is an attempt to write something on the lines of two of his favourite movies - ‘Chinatown’ and ‘The Big Sleep. While I wouldn’t say he matches up to his inspirations, it is ‘one, not good, but decent read’.
The author has stated that he plans to have Aloysius Archer return and I for one am hoping his second coming is a little better, especially since the build-up was a little slow in this one, but that shouldn’t be the case next time around.
The characterisation is strong and interesting with plot twists towards the end that will keep you hooked! But a couple of grouses I had were about the dialogues, which were not exactly gripping and believable; and the inaccurate police procedures.
A little more research is expected from a writer of Baldacci’s stature. And I believe that these aspects will improve once Archer becomes a series!