Detective Inspector Orla McLeod, Special Branch, is as tough a woman as you'd ever want to meet, or wouldn't, depending which side of the law you're on. Harrowing undercover work has honed her and the fellows of her unit into a lethal force. After three steady months in a rundown Glasgow tenement, the noose is tightening around their target. Then something goes terribly wrong. Orla narrowly escapes with her life, thanks to her own ingenuity and that of a nine-year-old lad named Jamie Buchanan. The boy, nearly catatonic from seeing too much misery in his few years, loses his mother at the scene of the violence and grudgingly places his security in Orla's hands. But now the unit's survivors have been exposed. The Special Branch cannot guarantee their safety, nor are they sure who they can trust.
In an effort to aid Jamie in his recovery and keep him out of harm's way, Orla whisks him from Glasgow to a group of cottages in a small Highlands village. One of them, a stout, thick-walled structure from her childhood, sits on a snowy bank looking across the water to the mountains. The calm of the setting starts Orla on the road to emotional and physical healing, aided by her mother and Murdo, a fellow agent offering more than a professional relationship. Morag McLeod proves a great counter to the hardened agents, agonizing over her daughter's inner turmoil and embracing the wounded child. Welcoming them into her home, she watches their interactions. She knows her boundaries with her daughter and respects her decisions, whether she agrees with them or not. Her desire is to calm the ghosts that threaten Orla's future from her past. The vast grandeur of the Scottish Highlands seems just the place for that.
Their peace is soon shattered, however, and the action bounces between Glasgow and the remote village. Orla is torn between her love for the orphaned lad and her sense of duty to eradicate a horrific criminal. Morag struggles not to intervene as she lets her daughter do what she feels she must; Murdo knows Orla's determination will leave her no alternative. Sometimes, though, the lines between good and evil blur, and knowing who to cheer for might become troublesome. Deciding whether you've made the right choice may take a few more chapters.
NO GOOD DEED is a beautifully written story of a very ugly crime, fraught with tension, filled with scenes that will make your skin crawl and a tenderness that will tug at your heart. The author's near-melodic prose will have you gasping when you realize the awful description her words have composed. You'll be thankful for the respite a quiet scene allows.
Manda Scott writes with intelligence, gripping her readers from the first sentence. She treats her characters with respect and gives them depth, purpose, and conscience. More importantly, she treats her readers with respect, giving them a tightly plotted thriller. You'll wince, read with one eye closed, but you won't put this one down. If you like roller coaster rides, you should read this book --- and if you choose to read this book, be ready for the ride.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on August 26, 2003