When Heather Chavez’s debut novel was being compared to Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner — and had an advance blurb from Lee Child — I knew I wanted to get my hands on it as soon as possible. My request was answered when they were giving advance copies out at Bouchercon in October, a fitting month, which we’ll get to later.
It took me a while to get to No Bad Deed — a mistake I instantly regretted.
Chavez sucks readers in immediately with a “What would you do?” moment. As veterinarian Cassie Larkin is driving home to her increasingly disappointed-in-her-long-work-hours husband and two kids, she sees a woman being beaten by a beastly man on a hiking trail near her house.
Cassie does what we all hope we would do in that situation: step out of the comfort of our vehicle and try to chase away the bad guy. As she confronts the man, whom she later identifies with the police as Carver Sweet (what a name for a villain!), he tells her that she will live if the poor woman is allowed to die.
Again, Cassie does the right thing and saves the other woman’s life. But at what cost?
I’ll leave the rest of the story for you to read, but it’s a thrill ride that only lets up in the right spots to develop Cassie’s character. The wonderfully paced novel is told in first-person throughout, so we get 300-plus pages to get to know Cassie, even as she’s getting to know herself through an intense situation and equally intense revelations about her past.
It’s a bit incredible to think No Bad Deed (William Morrow/HarperCollins, Feb. 18) is Chavez’s first novel.
Like me, she was a longtime reporter and editor (she worked at The Press Democrat for 17-plus years), which may explain why I loved her writing style so much. Her story flowed, the prose was incredibly well-written, and she stuck to the so-and-so-said formula for dialogue attribution. (It still grates when I read “I love you,” said so-and-so. It will never sound right to me.)
Chavez’s website says she’s working on another novel.
Count me in.
No Bad Deed releases wide on Feb. 18 and will be available wherever you buy books. Thank you for William Morrow and Bouchercon for providing me the ARC!)