Review: Ace Atkins’ ‘The Sinners’ is action-packed

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    This cover image released by Putnam shows "The Sinners," by Ace Atkins. (Putnam via AP)

Associated Press
Published: 7/27/2018 12:24:57 PM

Mississippi’s rural Tibbehah County – the evocative setting for Ace Atkins’s superior series about Quinn Colson, a former Army Ranger turned sheriff – is the crossroads of all things good and evil. Here, ordinary people too often intersect with members of the crime syndicate and general low-life people who have infiltrated the area.

In the action-packed The Sinners, Quinn again is battling drug traffickers who are using Tibbehah as their headquarters. Dirt-track racers Tyler and Cody Pritchard are carrying on the family business by growing marijuana on their farm. But the brothers’ lucrative sideline is running into troubles that have nothing to do with the law. Their violent, racist uncle Heath shows up one night after serving 23 years in prison, planning to take charge of the brothers’ land and business, with or without their permission. Meanwhile, Fannie Hathcock, who runs the huge strip club Vienna’s Place, believes the Pritchards have violated their agreement by selling more marijuana than they raise. That hurts Fannie’s standing with the Dixie Mafia that has its tentacles in Vienna’s Place, its largest source for laundering money.

Investigating the drug trade and the murders that have resulted from the rivalry is taking priority in Quinn’s professional life, but the sheriff is also dealing with a major life change. He’s less than a week away from marrying nurse Maggie Powers and becoming a father to her 7-year-old son, Brandon.

Atkins constructs his series to be equally a look at the criminal invasion in Quinn’s part of Mississippi and a story about families – a technique that provides balance to The Sinners. Quinn’s closeness to his mother, sister Caddy and nephew Jason provide him with balance that will expand when he marries and takes on the responsibility of fatherhood.

Quinn’s extended family also is a major part of his life, especially former soldier Boom Kimbrough. Although the Pritchard brothers are criminals and crude, Atkins shows they have a strong bond and actually care about each other. Their volatile uncle is another matter. Even the devious Fannie has a sense of humanity that occasionally peeks through.

Tibbehah County and the town of Jericho are small areas with big-city problems as Atkins maintains the sense of community that flows through the region. The Sinners showcases the beauty of Mississippi, from its fields to the winding Natchez Trace.

Atkins, who also is continuing the late Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels, delivers a solid thriller with The Sinners, while leaving plenty of story threads for the ninth installment in this series.

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