Step Back In Time

Allow me to introduce to you Aloysius Archer who is the lead character in David Baldacci’s One Good Deed (2019) crime thriller.  Archer has just been released from Caderock Prison, placed on parole, and sent to Poca City.  He has a long list of “don’ts” and rules he is to live by for the next three years.

It is 1949, WWII is over but still fresh in everyone’s memory, especially Archer’s.  He spent time in prison for a crime he did not commit and his story opens with him headed to see his parole officer.  His parole officer is not at all what he expected.  She is Ernestine Crabtree, who is no nonsense, strait-laced, and insists parolees live by her rules.  Those rules include:  No Bars and No Women.  Plus, Archer needs to find a job.

Of course, the first thing Archer does is end up in the local bar.  The Cat’s Meow is where he meets Hank Pittleman, who owns the local bank.  The two strike up a conversation.  Pittleman hires Archer for $100 to repo a dark green 1947 Cadillac that was put up as collateral for a $5000 loan by one Mr. Tuttle.

$100 is a lot of money, and wearing his only clothes on his back, Archer takes the job.  He finds his way to the Tuttle place and knocks on the door.  When that door is opened, Archer is facing a shot gun and Tuttle refuses to pay the loan.  Why?  Because Pittleman took something worth way more than 5K to Tuttle.

Archer finds himself between a rock and a hard place when it comes to dealing with Pittleman and Tuttle.  He sees both sides of their stories and must find a way to get things settled.

Of course, when one of the two dies, Archer is the main suspect. The only thing he knows for sure is he didn’t do it!  His experiences in WWII, especially his scouting ability, really pays off.  Serving in the military also opens doors for Archer.  Since the last place he wants to is back in prison, Archer puts his eyes and ears to the ground, follows the instincts he learned during the war in order to find the killer.

One Good Deed is a fast read.  Perfect for the beach or a rainy day.  It is different from his usual crime novel.  Here the suspect is investigating to clear himself.  Very few of the locals believe his innocence.  But one, who begins to respect Archer’s honest responses to situations, aids in solving this whodunit.

The next novel takes the reader across the world to India.  It turns out to be quite an interesting trip and I recommend that you also take the journey back in time and to a culture so unlike ours.

In the Henna Artist (2020) by Alka Joshi you will taken back in time to 1950, not long after India’s independence from the British Empire.  You will meet 17-year-old Lakshmi who finds herself alone in the city of Jaipur.

Lakshmi leaves her tiny country village to escape her arranged marriage which has turned abusive.  Her journey was frightening and beyond anything she has ever experienced.  She made it Agra in a week’s time by eating anything she could find along the way.

While in the city of the Taj Mahal, she found she could help women using the ways of her mother-in-law had taught her. It was in Agra Lakshmi learned the art of henna.  It also led her to Jaipur and a way to make a living.

Learning the art of henna enabled Lakshmi to discover her true talent.  Her designs became more intricate and her original designs were getting noticed by women in Jaipur.  It was not long before her creativity was sought out by the wealthy upper class in the city.

Lakshmi gains the confidence of her clients who often share their deepest secrets to her.  She offers advice as she creates her intricate designs.  As the business continues to blossom, Lakshmi foresees a new and uncomplicated life in her future.

Since Lakshmi has some secrets in her past, that easy life she dreams of begins to fall apart.  All her careful planning takes an unexpected turn when Hari tracks her down.  And, Hari is not alone.  He has brought 14-year-old Radha along.  Unknown to Lakshmi, Radha is her sister, born after Lakshmi left her village.

Young Radha is in need of parenting.  She is filled with energy and she has a mind of her own.  Lakshmi suddenly has even more on her plate with the arrival of Radha.  Now she not only has to balance her henna business along with her growing herbalist clientele, now she has to keep young Radha on her radar.

I found The Henna Artist an interesting novel and worth the read.  Lakshmi is likeable and strong.  She knows what she wants.  Unfortunately, she is not only caught between the old and the new India, Lakshmi also is torn between tradition and modern ways.

FYI:  The author wrote this novel for her mother.  Be sure to read the Acknowledgements at the end of the novel.  I appreciated Joshi also included a Glossary of Terms and other information for readers so interested, including a couple recipes.

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