“No Bad Deed,” William Morrow, by Heather Chavez
Heather Chavez’s debut begins with an explosive beginning that quickly spirals into a tense family drama that revolves on myriad believable turns. “No Bad Deed” lives up to its name as veterinarian Cassie Larkin tries to figure out how her quiet, well-organized life that is full of good deeds could spin out of control so quickly.
On her way home after a long day, Cassie spots a man attacking a young woman on the side of the road. She stops to call for help but against the advice of the 911 dispatcher, she gets out of the car to try to help. Even Cassie doesn’t understand why she doesn’t remain in her car, but her foolish actions harken back to the time when she was a bit reckless. The man turns on her, threatening her by saying about the woman he was molesting, “Let her die, and I’ll let you live.” He then steals her van, which has all her identification, address and photos of her family. It doesn’t take long for the police to identify the culprit — Carver Sweet — though they can’t locate him.
That night, Cassie’s husband, Sam, disappears, leaving their 6-year-old daughter Audrey on the street while they were trick or treating. Cassie admits that Sam is the more responsible parent and abandoning their daughter is so out of character she is sure that Carver has tracked her down. But police detective Ray Rico suspects that Cassie or her 15-year-old son, Leo, were involved in Sam’s disappearance.
The brisk plot of “No Bad Deed” moves with realistic twists as Cassie proves to be a credible sleuth, intent on saving her family and trying to find out why she has been targeted by Carver. The case takes Cassie from her comfortable suburban home to the more rural areas of California’s Sonoma wine country. Her investigation will uncover some disturbing family history. Chavez has a knack for characters that shines in “No Bad Deed” as she fills her novel with flawed, authentic people whose behavior is natural.
“No Bad Deed” is an assured debut.