The year is 1949 and the alliteratively named Aloysius Archer is a World War II veteran freshly paroled from prison for a crime he swears he didn't commit. Sent to the small Midwestern town of Poca City to serve out his parole, he arrives in town to check in with his parole supervisor, find a place to stay, and line up a job. Stuck for something to do before he checks in, Archer ends up at a local bar, with a drink in hand, talking to Hank Pittleman, the local banker and power broker in Poca City. The conversation leads to a lucrative job offer—all Archer has to do is collect on a debt owed to Pittleman and the money is his. But when the debtor refuses to pay up, Archer has to get creative.
Things take a decided turn for the worse when a murder occurs just down the hall from where Archer's staying. Instead of making a new start, Archer finds himself trying to avoid being sent back to prison and forced to look into the murder himself. It would be easier on Irving Shaw, the detective assigned to the case, to pin the crime on Archer, but instead both men end up as surprising allies. As more bodies turn up, the two men dovetail their investigation to seek out justice in a twist-filled case.
David Baldacci quickly establishes Archer as a man well worth rooting for. Having lived a hard life, he's wary, but not embittered by his circumstances. As for the supporting cast, I found the portrayal of Detective Shaw to be so interesting that I would love to see him as the lead in a book of his own. The women in this story, Pittleman's wife, his mistress Jackie Tuttle, and Archer's parole officer Ernestine Crabtree are an intriguing lot with not a shrinking violet among them. For those expecting one of Baldacci's more action-packed thrillers, one might be a little taken aback with the more sedate pace of the storytelling. Instead of guns blazing away, readers get an intriguing mystery paired with a character study that examines just how far someone will go to bury their past, protect their present, and improve their prospects for the future. In that respect, readers will find that One Good Deed is indeed one great book.