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Compelling characters in Atkins’s ‘The Forsaken’

This book cover image released by Putnam shows "The Forsaken," by Ace Atkins. (AP Photo/Putnam)

This book cover image released by Putnam shows "The Forsaken," by Ace Atkins. (AP Photo/Putnam)

Sheriff Quinn Colson has been working to clean up corruption and injustice in Ace Atkins’s compelling crime fiction series, but he can’t change the past of Jericho, Miss., when he’s faced with a decades-old crime that leads to scrutiny of his own past in The Forsaken.

In the fourth novel of this solid series, Quinn is approached by Diane Tull, who, back in 1977, was raped on a country road when she was 17 years old. Her 14-year-old friend was murdered in the same assault. Three days later, a group of local men found a black man they blamed for the attacks and brutally murdered him.

Now, 37 year later, Diane wants Quinn to reopen that old case because she is sure the wrong man was killed. Quinn’s investigation leads to some uncomfortable facts about his father, who left his family more than 20 years ago and hasn’t made contact in years with either Quinn or his younger sister, Caddy.

Meanwhile, Quinn and his deputy, Lillie Virgil, are under investigation for killing two men who had tried to murder them. One of those men was a cop who had been in the pocket of Johnny Stagg, a prominent Jericho businessman and politician who also runs a lucrative criminal enterprise.

Atkins excels in solid pacing, effective dialogue and compelling characters in The Forsaken. Quinn’s background as a former U.S. Ranger and his relationship with his family, which includes his mother, sister and her young son, add texture to the series. A good soldier, Quinn has now found his calling as the sheriff. Atkins shapes Quinn not as a superman, but as a flawed man who wants to do the right thing for his hometown.

Earlier this year, Atkins published Robert B. Parker’s Cheap Shot, his third novel about Boston private eye Spencer, which the Parker estate tapped him to continue. Atkins’s fresh approach to Spencer stays faithful to the iconic detective’s past. But the excellent Quinn Colson novels, as illustrated in The Forsaken, are the true showcase for Atkins’s storytelling skills.

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