"No good deed goes unpunished." "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Mark Taylor learns the truth of both these adages when he tries to warn the government about the 9/11 attacks. His suspect knowledge comes from a magical camera, one that shows him future tragedies and forces him to dream about the circumstances in detail. In his attempts to prevent a major disaster, he unknowingly lands himself with enemy combatant status and faces seemingly endless interrogations to force a confession that he cannot make.
Initially expecting a story focusing on Mark and his fantastical camera, I was surprised when the premise turned out to be little more than an accessory, one that could easily replaced with precognition or some such skill. Instead, the novel spun around a political message as several chapters were devoted to the injustices Mark faced as he was held without trial. The subject of altruism was also explored as the main character was forced into the position of many a superhero: to help or help not?
The pacing in this story was generally breakneck, though it did slow during Mark's interment and plateaued in the immediate aftermath. While thrill-seekers may be a bit miffed by the apparent lull, these scenes do provide critical character development and allow Mark's later internal conflicts to become one's own. As abhorrent as the gross injustices were, they were as riveting as they were infuriating.
No Good Deed was written in a very straightforward manner, with little unnecessary embellishment; as a plot-based tale, it does well to stick to relevant information without waxing poetic. The dialogue in particular was comfortable. By the end of the story, Mark had developed a distinctive voice; I could all but hear it every time he spoke. With that said, there was a period towards the end of the novel in which some of the phrasing and word choices became a bit repetitive, and I found several issues with quotation marks and a handful of grammatical errors. Thankfully, the fascinating plot dulled the sting of these minor annoyances.
What did bother me was the underdevelopment of Mark's struggle to start using the camera again. It was verbally addressed, but in some ways, I'd been hoping to see more of it. The shift in his relationship with one of the other characters was also unexpected; after the initial difficulty, the ease with which he adjusted to the transition was unnerving, as was the hasty resolution of his broken relationship with his father. This may not bother those who are more focused on the book's climax and are eager to see the conclusion of the story. Personally, I just felt that the final 30% was rushed, and portions of it were somewhat forced.
No Good Deed is a timely tale about imprisonment, ethics, and forgiveness. I'd recommend it to any seeking a thriller with a culturally relevant message.
(Review copy provided by the author)