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by Manda Scott
Bantam, April 2002
320 pages
ISBN: 0553802674

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Orla McLeod, the scarred and terrifying heroine of No Good Deed, is haunted by the bloody events of her childhood, in which she saw her father and brother gunned down by an Irish nationalist, while she and her mother suffered serious burns from a gasoline bomb in a parallel attack. As this book opens, she is working as an agent of a rather shadowy service and in deep undercover posing as a prostitute and heroin addict, attempting to bring a major drug smuggler to justice. But she has been found out and lies helpless as her fellow agent and lover, Luke, is being slowly and horribly tortured to death in her hearing. She is rescued by Jamie, the nine-year-old son of an actual prostitute who lies dead on the floor of the room they are in.

Having saved them both, Jamie is himself in need of further redemption, of the promise of some semblance of a real life and Orla commits herself to the project. She takes him off to her motheržs cottage in Scotland, teaches him to see nature and to begin the very difficult process of learning to communicate with others and to trust them, at least a little. But Orla cannot retire from the struggle that brought her and Jamie together in the first place as the old evil continues to threaten in a novel that is taut with menace, the more effective in that both its source and its object is not altogether clear.

No Good Deed is faintly reminiscent of Smyllažs Sense of Snow in that both novels involve a very difficult heroine, a small boy, and some considerable snow, but Scottžs novel is more compelling as it is rooted in a recognizable reality and because it is very beautifully written. Scott requires the reader to pay the same kind of careful and complete attention to her world that Orla bestows upon Jamie and it is this, more than anything, that lifts the book beyond its sometimes lurid detail to place where redemption may occur and the reader be moved to tears.

Note: This review was based on the British edition of the book. An American edition is shortly to appear.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, April 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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