For a long time, I was wary of starting Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson series. I’m not from the south but my dad is and I used to vacation there a lot. I know how often southern folk are caricaturized. I also know how people will write off the south’s racist legacy in favor of being “complex” (looking at you Gregory Iles, although I’ve never made it past 20 pages of a Penn Cage book so maybe he gets better). I assumed Quinn Colson, ex-Army Ranger, would just be a typical cowboy-type for books written like old school westerns: man comes into town, gets the bad guy, sleeps with the girl, does some shots of whisky and rides out on his motorcycle (the modern day horse).
That’s not what these books are at all. Atkins is a veteran writer but most impressively, he knows how to write characters. His characters are steeped in the culture of the south, a culture the native Atkins knows well. But it’s never played for anything other than strong characterization. The heroes aren’t always heroes, but neither does Atkins venerate moral ambiguity. The villains aren’t always villains but you never forget they’re bad guys. Atkins takes the moralism of the deep south and helps the reader realize that beyond it, there is a real world. And this is how these people interact with one another in the real world.
This one is probably the best of the series, definitely an improvement on book two which I still thought was good aside from the Scary Mexican Cartel nonsense. You feel the tragedy laced to all of the characters, the complexity of the small county they live in, the claustrophobic nature the storm brings to folks who are used to having space. The climactic scene is intentionally non-derivative. Sadness is felt all the same.
The Quinn Colson series is a good one. I like these books.