Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer


Ace Atkins The Broken Places

The Broken Places is the third Quinn Colson novel by Ace Atkins. I enjoyed the first book enough to return for the second, which I thought was really well done. In the third book, Atkins seems very familiar with his cast of characters and the Mississippi county where everything takes place. However, the story played out a little slower than I’d anticipated.

The plot is straightforward and would have been equally at home in a Western novel. Two convicts escape prison and return to Tibbehah County to find another ex-convict who owes them money. Only the ex-con, Jamey Dixon, has become a preacher and set his life on the path of righteousness. Also, he happens to be dating Quinn Colson’s sister, Caddy.

With all the plot elements in place, I’d expected a rather quick finish to the whole affair, but Atkins plays out the events, deepening the characters and bringing everything to a slow boil after everyone gets to play their part. There are a lot of reverses and double-crosses along the way, and several tense moments.

This series is a big departure from the work Atkins is also doing as Robert B. Parker’s ghost on the new Spenser novels. Quite frankly, I’m blown away by how Atkins can pen a novel set in Boston’s urban sprawl, then turn to one set in a place like Tibbehah County. Those environments are separate worlds, but Atkins is equally at home in either.

I do enjoy the large cast of characters Atkins has brought to these books. He’s going beyond just Colson’s family and longtime friend Boom. I liked the way Colson and the father of one of the men from the last book set aside their differences and found the military background that they both shared. That was a nice piece and was a pleasure to read, and the events were very human.

As I was reading the book, I couldn’t help thinking that it was paced like a television series with episodic cliffhangers, revelations, and building up characters along the way. In addition to the showdown between Colson and the ex-cons, there are a lot of other mysteries to solve. Some of the questions aren’t quite answered, but the way Atkins deals with them leaves readers satisfied for the most part. Sometimes you just don’t get to know everything.

One aspect of the series I’m not overly fond of is Colson’s relationship with his ex, who happens to be married to another man. Robert B. Parker set this same kind of situation in his Jesse Stone novels and I wasn’t a fan of that plot thread either. Maybe that relationship is supposed to show Colson’s not perfect, but he doesn’t have to be. He’s got his hands full with county crime and keeping his family safe and together.

I think fans of Justified and James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels will enjoy this one. Atkins gets to the action in the end, but there’s a lot going on in the meantime too.


One Response to “THE BROKEN PLACES by Ace Atkins”

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