It’s a good thing The Ranger was my first Ace Atkins novel. He’s written plenty of southern-friend country crime tales and with this one, I find a writer who has developed a style that works.
I was weary of these books in the same way I’m reflexively weary of most male lone-wolf time crime tales: they often produce the same cocktail of toxic masculinity, gross misogyny, class and race caricaturization and a big bang shootout to end it all.
The Ranger has a big bang shootout to end it all, which kind of annoyed me, but that was one of the few things I disliked about the book. Quinn Colson isn’t coming back to his home town to “set things right.” He wants to protect criminals from stealing his uncle’s land and find out why his uncle committed suicide (or didn’t). There’s real investigative work done by Colson and the sheriff, a woman who he has his moments with but not in a stereotypical way (i.e. none of the “You’re a good shot for a girl” kind of nonsense). His relationship to the people in his old town, strained as it is, felt real.
Also, while the bad guys here are obnoxiously bad, they’re also in control of shadowy forces that Atkins only hints at (presumably to set up the rest of the series). Atkins makes it clear that the bad guys are often bad because they are forced into bad situations. He doesn’t defend them but he’s a talented enough writer to have some nuance, at least slightly more than one would expect from this kind of bestseller paperback series.
I don’t know if I’m gonna go through the whole Quinn Colson catalog but I’ll definitely pick up book two at some point.