THE LOST ONES by Ace Atkins
I was kind of tepid on the first Quinn Colson novel by Ace Atkins. I thought The Ranger had a great sense of place and character, but there just wasn’t enough going on to suit me. The pot needed a little more stirring.
However, after reading and being suitably impressed with the author’s Spenser novel, Lullaby, I moved this one up in my TBR pile. Like I said, I was tepid on the first one but I really wanted to see how the second book went.
The plot this time is very involved. Human trafficking, people who foster parent kids in nightmarish conditions, the illegal sale of guns and drugs all trade up throughout the novel, and all of these stories seemed ripped from the headlines of current news stories.
Atkins’s characters are the best part of this novel. I like how the main character Quinn Colson is coming along while adjusting to his new job as sheriff of the county where he grew up. I like the family dynamics he has, living in his father’s shadow, trying to find some kind of peace between himself, his mother, and his troubled sister, and being an uncle to a kid who’s between a rock and a hard place.
Quinn’s also jockeying between the people with the power in his county and trying to do the right thing. The developing sheriff’s office and its personnel are immensely likeable. I’m not quite sure where I stand on the budding romantic overtures between Quinn and his deputy Lillie Virgil. It makes sense for them to be together (they aren’t yet), but I also like the friendship dynamic quite a lot. I don’t want to have to trade one for the other. Quinn’s solution for his one-armed buddy, Boom, is well thought out and nicely done.
There’s also a lot of background that’s going to get fleshed out in this series. The “local boy missing” story mentioned in the first book gets a whole new twist in this one, and I’m wondering how many more twists are coming as Atkins reveals more about his characters. The author has certainly got ideas that are going to deepen and change those characters.
Another character, Donnie Varner, is an excellent addition in this novel. A lot of the novel centers around Donnie and the choices he makes. The title The Lost Ones aptly describes Donnie to a T. There were times when Donnie almost overshadows Quinn, but Atkins manages to walk a fine line here so he can deliver a really well done ending in this novel.
Atkins amazes me the way he can slip into Spenser’s Boston and deliver a good story in that environment. But I really love the small town atmosphere in the Quinn Colson novels. I learned to love Spenser’s view of Boston, but Quinn Colson’s hometown of Jericho of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, feels as familiar as a favorite t-shirt.