ONE GOOD DEED - by David Baldacci

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Published: July 2019 - Macmillan.
Genre: Adult / thriller / historical fiction.
Pages: 432.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence / occasional gruesome descriptions / sexual innuendos. 
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All thoughts are my own. 


In 1949, Aloysius Archer arrives in the dusty Southern town of Poca City. He has nothing but a handful of dollars, the clothes he's wearing and an appointment with his new parole officer. After his wartime experiences in Italy and a prison sentence for a crime he didn't commit, Archer is looking for a fresh start and a peaceful life.

On his first night of freedom, Archer meets local business tycoon Hank Pittleman, who promises Archer handsome compensation to work as his debt collector. Yet Archer takes on more than he bargains for, as he becomes embroiled in a long-running feud between the drought-struck town's most dangerous residents. When one of them dies, the authorities label Archer as their number one suspect.

A bloody game is being played above and below the law. Everybody playing has a deeply buried secret, and Archer must uncover them all - if he's to avoid going back behind bars.

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS


David Baldacci's books are fun action thrillers. Occasionally, I'll find some fantastic characters and relationships to root for, too.


The writing is good. It's perfect for an action thriller: brisk, snappy, and with entertaining dialogue, which in this case also caters to the slang of the era. This grounds you in the time period instantly. Sometimes I think the author goes a bit overboard with the slang (it gets cheesy) but generally it's appropriate. The only things I really don't like about Baldacci's writing style are A) his sentences tend to be very long and B) his stories always start with info-dumping.

The plot is tight. There's  action, and the things move fast, whether it's through engaging descriptions, twisted unknowns, or colourful character interactions. I was kept guessing throughout - the mystery is clever and intricate.

The characters are pretty standard for a light action thriller. My favourite is Ernestine because of her depth, but I did enjoy Jackie's presence, too. The villains are forgettable, but they do their thing and they're scary and clever enough to work. The female characters also pack a punch.

Archer I do not like. He's the hero every woman falls in love with and the guy who's always stronger than the other guys. He's practically perfect. The other males in the story are sexist, but of course Archer is the exception. And even the villains admit that he's clever. That's what annoys me the most: so many characters repeatedly praise Archer; everyone falls at his feet and worships him. It makes me want to gag. Nobody's perfect, okay? The Perfect Protagonist is a trope I cannot stand.


  And he and millions of others had just fought a world war to ensure that neither anarchy nor fascism nor anything else would replace the reasonable screwing over of people without money by those who possessed damn near all of it.


There is another aspect of the book that hugely affected my rating, and actually grew increasingly more serious as the story progressed: the use of a rape trope (and female abuse, too). Specifically, not every woman needs to have a tragic backstory involving abuse or rape, and I don't think it was at all necessary for the story that Ernestine was gang-raped in her youth and Jackie was abused by her father. Those incidents have no place in this story - they're there to explain some of the mystery the male protagonist uncovers, to vaguely give reasons for the actions the women take, and to create pity for two female characters (which could have been created without an incident of rape, quite frankly). It's lazy, naive writing.

Ernestine's story angers me the most. Her rape comes as a twist, and Archer discovers it not from her, but from a male detective who he'd asked to investigate her. To make it worse, the detective does yet more digging to find out about the incident of rape, and shares it with Archer per his request without involving Ernestine at all. That is not right. It's not their story to tell or discuss, it's Ernestine's, and it should have come from her. Archer should not have asked for details - he shouldn't have kept prying. I get that Ernestine is a part of the mystery that unfolds and is a suspect, but the whole thing feels wrong. Her trauma is misused. It's a trope. It's not necessary, and the focus feels misguided as it concentrates on Archer's reception of the information and his concern for her. That's not right. Rape didn't belong in this story, and it shouldn't have been included so immaturely.   




One Good Deed is a thrilling action mystery that keeps you turning the pages. There are some questionable elements and the protagonist is annoyingly venerated, but the novel is still a terrific action thriller.

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