Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Atkins Diet

The Redeemers
by Ace Atkins
G.P. Putnam's Sons

4 out of 5 slabs of barbecued ribs bought at a truck stop.

(I received a free advance copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for this honest review.)

I love being on the Atkins diet…

No, not that Atkins diet.  (You can have my carbs when you pry them from pudgy dead hands.)  I’m talking about the Ace Atkins reading diet in which you get to gorge yourself on two of his books a year. The first course is the Spenser book he does for the Robert B. Parker estate which keeps the iconic detective alive and well.  The second is Atkins’ own creation of Quinn Colson, a former Army Ranger who returned to his Mississippi hometown and became the sheriff.

Or at least Quinn was the sheriff.  The Redeemers begins with Quinn voted out thanks to Johnny Stagg, the local power broker who has his fingers in just about every crooked and corrupt scheme going on in Tibbehah County.  While Quinn ponders his next move he’s also dealing with a variety of family matters including the return of his estranged father, his drug addicted sister, and his increasingly messy love life.  

Meanwhile, a local businessman named Mickey Walls has a grudge against his former father-in-law Larry Cobb that he intends to settle by stealing the large amount of cash that Cobb amassed through various shady business deals.  Walls asks his friend Kyle to help loot Cobb's safe, and he also recruits two small time crooks to crack it open.  The robbery kicks off a chain of consequences that Quinn gets pulled into even though it’s not his job.

One of the strengths of this serious is the portrayal of small town life by Atkins, who currently resides in Oxford, Mississippi.  He knows the rhythms of a rural community, and he uses that along with his writing talent to build an intricate web of connections that tie the locals together.  He does this with a clear eye, that both celebrates and critiques the lifestyle as he weaves first rate crime stories through it all.

He’s also got a knack for creating memorable characters, and my favorites this time were the two lowlife thieves that Walls hires to crack the safe.  Peewee Sparks is a disgusting pig of a man who steals to fund his trips to New Orleans where he can binge of strippers and prostitutes.  His apprentice is his dimwitted nephew whose life lesson all come from being an Alabama football fanatic.  These two scumbags provide a lot of entertainment as they roll around in Peewee’s van which has portraits of Alabama pigskin legends painted on it.  You have to think that Atkins, who played football at rival Auburn, took great delight in creating these morons.

The plot also provides a lot of resolution to some of the on-going storylines that have been built up over the previous four books so that this is a series that feels like it’s going somewhere while introducing new complications that can be explored in future books.  

Also posted at Goodreads.

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