No Good Deed
I enjoy romantic suspense, and this creepy tale immediately caught my attention because of its setting. The action in Suzanne Matthews’ No Good Deed unfolds in Canada during a freak snowstorm, and the author makes good use of her setting and the nightmarish weather to keep readers wondering if the mystery will be solved – or if the heroine will even make it out in one piece.
The novel opens on a dramatic note. Alexa O’Brien has left an abusive fiancé whom she fears will find and punish her. She has obviously planned her escape and is bright enough to do things such as paying cash for a room and traveling at night. However, a nighttime gas run has her walking in on what appears to be an organized crime assassination. Just as the gravity of her situation hits her, Alexa is discovered and shot in the back.
The plot action then moves forward by almost a year. Once the authorities become aware of what Alexa witnessed, they tell her that her assistance is needed to put the criminals in jail. A talented artist, Alexa is able to produce sketches of the men she saw that fateful night and soon after she does so, she is whisked away to a safe house.
There she remains until in walks Mike Delorme from the Sûreté Du Québec (SDQ). Mike is obsessed with putting away Nicoli Zabat, Montreal’s feared crime boss – and the man whom Delorme believes responsible for the death of his wife. Mike’s single-minded focus on Zabat has carried him through over a year of undercover work. However, with his cover blown and recovering from injuries, Mike now finds himself assigned to babysit a witness in a safe house and he is less than thrilled.
Things change a bit as Mike starts working with Alexa. For starters, he is almost immediately suspicious when he sees the supposed safe house. Contrary to department policy, Alexa has been placed in an isolated cabin with no access to the outside world. With injuries that have left her dependent upon a wheelchair and crutches, Alexa is entirely reliant upon whomever comes to bring her supplies and she has been left entirely defenseless. In other words, she’s a sitting duck out in the middle of nowhere.
Mike is no dummy, so as he keeps finding more and more things that simply don’t add up, he becomes very worried about Alexa. Neither of these two is initially thrilled to be working together but as it becomes increasingly obvious that the house is anything but a safe one, they come to rely upon one another.
I found myself flying through this story as I watched Mike and Alexa figure out how to make an escape without being caught, navigating around both her mobility issues and the very real problems caused by snow packed roads and terrible visibility. The grand puzzle of the story becomes compounded as the stories of Zabat, the mob hit and even Alexa’s abusive fiance start to pull together. The intertwined threads of corruption, organized crime, and abuse strain credibility a bit, but I still enjoyed the story, and he author does a good job of conveying the urgency of the characters’ situation as well as the difficulties of their circumstances to the reader. I found the descriptions of the Canadian landscape fascinating and as someone who has read primarily USA or UK-set romantic suspense, figuring out how things worked with the various law enforcement agencies was interesting to me as well.
The romance, however, is somewhat less effective. Throughout the book we hear of Mike’s obsession with taking down Zabat, driven at least in part by the fact that he holds Zabat responsible for the death of the wife he loved intensely. Yet, after only a couple of weeks or so of being around Alexa, Mike suddenly finds himself thinking that the loss of his wife pales beside the idea of Alexa being in jeopardy. I could certainly believe that Mike and Alexa felt attracted to one another, but such depth of feeling was a little hard for me to accept and it felt a little forced. Also, one has to wonder why Mike’s late wife suddenly has to become not nearly so good as the Super Special Heroine. I suspect more than a few readers know someone who loved deeply and after losing their beloved, went on to love deeply again.
Even though the romance has some weak spots, the attraction between the leads still feels believable and the mystery is one that falls into that cracktastic “totally improbable but I couldn’t stop reading” zone. If you’re looking for a page-turner, No Good Deed isn’t a bad one.