The Fallen by Ace Atkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I won a free advance copy of this from Goodreads.
Quinn Colson is back in office as sheriff, and he’s got no shortage of problems to deal with. A crew of ex-military combat vets have started robbing banks. Two underage teenage girls have gone missing, and Quinn’s born again sister is obsessed with finding them. The lady who owns the local strip club is as crooked as a dog’s back leg and has connections to the bank robbers as well as the Dixie Mafia. A miserable old bastard of a politician has vowed to make Mississippi great again by turning back the clock to the days when everyone went to church and segregation was still the law of the land. And a childhood friend of Quinn’s has returned to town leading him to a new romance even as she’s still waiting for her divorce to be finalized.
Tibbehah County definitely isn’t Mayberry.
This is the seventh book in the series, and Ace Atkins has built this world up to the point where it’s now got it’s own internal logic and rhythm to it. The basic idea of a ex-military bad ass returning to his old home town to clean it up sounds like the plot of an action movie. However, rather than make his ex-Ranger straight-talking straight-shooting hero into the focal point that all the other characters orbit around Atkins has been content to let Quinn be like the leading man of a TV show with a great supporting cast. The action usually involves him eventually, but he doesn’t need to be in every scene. This lets the whole thing play out as a crime story that has room to explore other aspects, and we end up spending as much time with the owner of the strip club and the bank robbers as we do Quinn. That makes everyone feel like real characters and not just targets to be shot or arrested.
Recent political events have added an interesting undercurrent to this one. The developing situation with the politician demanding a return to his version of the good ole days as a populist hook to get people on board with his agenda lurks throughout the book. This feeds into a larger plot about large scale corruption taking the form of hypocritical old rich white men who line their pockets while feeding the rubes lines about factory jobs coming back as soon as we have a return to decency. The guys robbing the bank may be dangerous thrill seeking criminals who wear Donald Trump masks, but at least they’re honest about what they’re doing.
It’s another very strong crime novel from Atkins who continues to resolve some stories while leaving some things up in the air to be part of future books. When I finish one book about Quinn Colson and Tibbehah County I’m always anxious to get the next one, and this has a final scene that will make it a long year waiting for the next installment.
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