Friday, January 20, 2017

Quinn Colson Returns in Another Great Novel from Ace Atkins

There's a new sheriff in town, or in Tibbehah County, Mississippi, to be more precise. Ex-Army Ranger, Quinn Colson, who had returned from Afghanistan, been elected sheriff and begun cleaning up the county, has been voted out of office, the victim of a smear campaign conducted by his opponent. Colson's successor is murdered almost immediately upon assuming the office, and this leaves Quinn's trusted deputy, Lillie Virgil, as acting sheriff.

Looking for a change, Quinn goes back to Afghanistan to help train the government's forces. But after a year, he's back in Mississippi only to discover that a number of other changes have occurred. Thanks to Colson, Johnny Stagg, the crime boss and county commissioner who had run the county as his private fiefdom, is now in jail. The truck stop and strip club that Stagg had owned and operated is under new management in the person of Fannie Hathcock, a tough, no nonsense woman who is determined to hold her own against both Sheriff Lillie Virgil and the outsiders who want to muscle in on her operation.

Quinn returns to find that both his family and his love life are about as dysfunctional as they were when he left. In particular, his father, ex-Hollywood stuntman Jason Colson, has grandiose dreams of building a dude ranch on land adjoining Quinn's farm. The issue is complicated by the fact that the land in question is owned by none other than the imprisoned Johnny Stagg, who continues to be Quinn Colson's bitter enemy. The elder Colson attempts to entice his son into joining his grand schemes, and the reader can only hope that Quinn has better sense.

As all of this plays out, a young woman who was once the top cheerleader at the local high school takes a job working at Fannie Hathcock's renovated strip club. She's a natural on the pole and is pulling down huge tips until she is brutally murdered. The investigation into her death turns into a three-ring circus, and Lillie Virgil recruits Quinn Colson to come back to work for the county, this time as her deputy. As things spin out of control, even Lillie and Quinn working together may not be enough to hold back the chaos.

This is another very good entry in an excellent series. In his fictional Tibbehah County, Atkins has created a fully-formed world with believable characters who range from being extremely sympathetic to downright loathsome. Quinn Colson, in particular, is a very appealing protagonist, and it's always fun spending a few hours with him in his home county, even if it might not be a place where I'd enjoy living on a permanent basis.

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