David Baldacci is known for his many thrillers series starring characters like Amos Decker and Will Robie. One Good Deed marks the beginning of a new period series around Aloysius Archer, a recently released prisoner who was innocent of the crime he put in time for. Archer, a World War II veteran, is deposited in Poca City, Oklahoma after being granted an early discharge for good behavior and warned about falling back into ‘old habits’ that would land him back in jail. Unfortunately, some of the characters he meets may be his downfall — he’s quickly pinned as the main suspect in the murder of his employer.
Archer is a fascinating main character. He’s got a record, did his time and wishes to move on with his life. He’s a strapping young man who is quiet and intelligent, and a former Army scout to boot, which plays perfectly into the story as he has the ability to detect minute details. Despite being the main suspect in the criminal investigation, he manages to sweet talk the head detective into letting him help with the investigation. I found this to be especially surprising since former criminals rarely get the chance to participate in an investigation, let alone actually help the detective.
When it comes to the trial, Archer refuses help from the public defender, as they think he should plead guilty. He chooses to defend himself instead, and is such a quick learner he’s able to master specific aspects of the law pertaining to his case in just a SINGLE night! On top of that, he’s a champion for women, making sure they’re taken care of and they’ll come to no harm. He’s essentially the Superman who did time.
But does a Superman-esque character really fit in here? Is it better that Archer is the perfect man, always in the right place at the right time?
I find many of Baldacci’s main characters fall into this category of being the ‘perfect’ man where they can achieve almost everything with ease. And Archer’s “kryptonite” is how he’s easily distracted by women. Yet, everything lined up perfectly for him. For example, when Archer was caught in a lie with the head detective, he found a way to help the detective instead. A suspect is a suspect, so it doesn’t make any sense to have them participate in an investigation when they’re clearly involved.
This murder mystery had enough twists and turns to throw me off the scent of the real killer, which I am grateful for. Baldacci injected a slight sense of ‘noir’ into this period series but there were a few things off about it. For one thing, language didn’t quite flow right. One example has a conversation between Archer and a lawyer sounding overly formal, especially for a small town in Oklahoma, when the lawyer tells him, “If he has, it has never reached a court of law. And that’s a fact. For I am a member of the local bar and would be in a position to know of such.”
That doesn’t sound right, does it? Then there were times when he nailed colloquialisms from that region. This vacillation between incorrect and correct syntax made it seem as if Baldacci didn’t research dialogue from the era as thoroughly as he could’ve.
People aren’t perfect. We all have flaws we’d prefer to hide as to not expose our vulnerabilities. But that makes us even more interesting to read about. Flawless characters can easily become dull because, while there may be challenges, things always seem to work out for them in the end. Where’s the fun in that? Still, even with stilted dialogue and nearly-flawless characters I found One Good Deed an easy read and a decent introduction to the world of Aloysius Archer. Let’s see if his future adventures can add a few more stumbles to keep things interesting.