Review: ‘The Fallen’ by Ace Atkins

The Fallen by Ace Atkins
G.P. Putnam’s Sons (July 18, 2017)

Down in Jericho, Mississippi, a group of men in Donald Trump masks burst into a bank with the intentions of cleaning out the cash from the big Wal-Mart Presidents’ Day Sale. A few miles down the road at Vienna’s Place (formerly the more succinctly-named Booby Trap), Fannie Hathcock, owner and proprietor, has taken a hammer to a customer’s face.

Just another day in Tibbehah County.

There are two main story lines in The Fallen: one follows a group of war veterans who have turned their attentions and Marine-bred talents to robbing banks; the other concerns a couple of missing teenage girls. Problem is, there’s only one Sheriff Quinn Colson. He’s turning most of his attention toward the bank robberies; he’s also spending a fair amount of time getting reacquainted with a childhood friend. This leaves him little time to look for the two girls, a couple of lost souls who crossed paths with his sister, Caddy, at the church/women’s shelter she runs. Quinn is convinced they simply ran off; Caddy, sure there’s something far more sinister going on, recruits Boom to help her find them. Boom is a long-time Colson family friend with a strong moral compass, and as reluctant as he is to go behind his buddy’s back, Caddy makes a compelling argument.

The Fallen travels a long, winding road through Tibbehah, pulling various familiar and colorful characters into its wake. Ace Atkins has created a rich, densely populated environment in which to stage his stories; while newcomers will be thoroughly entertained, the true payoff is for those who have been along for the entire ride. It’s a ride that, thankfully, appears to be far from over. The Fallen ends with just one of its story lines resolved; with a major shake-up to the status quo; and with a direct lead-in to the next book.

It’s been some time since Ace Atkins earned his place as one of the best voices in Southern fiction; now it’s time to recognize him as one of the best crime fiction writers working today, period. Distinguished by dialogue that rings true spoken by characters that feel real, and propelled by plots only a former crime journalist could concoct, the Tibbehah County…, excuse me, the Quinn Colson series is maturing into a legacy that Atkins can be proud of.

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