In this “morbidly funny”(The New York Times) thriller in Ace Atkin’s southern crime series, former Mississippi sheriff Quinn Colson might be out of a job—but that doesn't mean he’s staying out of trouble...
Quinn Colson is unemployed—voted out of his position as sheriff of Tibbehah County, Mississippi. He has offers in bigger and better places, but before he goes, Colson’s got one more job to do—bring down county kingpin Johnny Stagg’s criminal operations for good.
At least that's the plan. But in the middle of the long, hot summer, somebody smashes through the house of a wealthy mill owner, making off with a safe full of money and shooting a deputy. As Deputy Lillie Virgil hunts the criminals and draws Colson in, other people join the chase, too, but with a much more personal motive. For that safe contained more than just money—it held secrets. And as Colson well knows, some secrets can kill.
About the Author
Ace Atkins is the New York Times bestselling author of the Quinn Colson novels, the first two of which—The Ranger and The Lost Ones—were nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel (he also has a third Edgar nomination for his short story, “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”). In addition, he is the author of several New York Times bestselling novels in the continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. Before turning to fiction, he was a correspondent for the St. Petersburg Times, a crime reporter for the Tampa Tribune, and, in college, played defensive end for the undefeated Auburn University football team (for which he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated). He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.
Read an Excerpt
Mickey Walls didn’t bring up the subject until after he’d paid the Huddle House check and was walking out to his red Hummer parked on top of a ridge overlooking Highway 45. His buddy Kyle followed, working a toothpick in the side of his mouth, strolling like a man who didn’t have nowhere to be, and leaning onto his truck advertising HAZLEWOOD CONTRACTING. It was winter and colder than a witch’s tit, and Mickey slipped his hands into his thick Carhartt jacket. He stood near the truck gate and said, “I heard you had some problems with Larry Cobb.”
“Shit,” Kyle said, firing up a Marlboro. “To hell with that bastard.”
“You were doing some dozer work for him and he jacked your ass?”
“He says I did a half-ass job,” Kyle said. “That was a goddamn lie. When I come to talk to him, he sent out Debbi to talk. He’s one sorry piece of shit.”
“Why don’t you sue him?”
“Cost more for a lawyer than I’d get.”
“You could whip his ass.”
“Larry’s an old man,” Kyle said. “He ain’t worth it. You can’t just go beating up some old son of a bitch. That’s like picking on a cripple. What makes me madder than anything is that I thought I was his friend. Me and him used to hunt together. He even took me out to his place in Colorado and introduced me to his high-dollar friends. We’d shoot skeet and drink Coors Light in the Jacuzzi.”
“I thought he was my friend, too,” Mickey said.
“Till you and Tonya split up.”
“I never done a damn thing to that man,” he said. “And he knows his daughter is bat shit crazy. She takes Xanax like they’re Tic Tacs. Then he sued me for nearly a hundred grand, about bankrupted me just because our divorce didn’t sit well with him and Debbi.”
“Like I said,” Kyle said. “That man’s a genuine piece of shit.”
The Huddle House hadn’t been there long, opening up that summer with all the other places built after the tornado. People in Tibebhah County saying that twister may have been the best thing that happened since the Choctaws sold out. Even though seventeen people died, they now had a Subway, a KFC, and even a Wal-Mart. Mickey leaned over the tailgate of the big truck, watching the traffic speeding by the exit on Highway 45. Kyle flicked away his spent Marlboro, firing up another. His skin was burnt-red and he wore his graying hair cut long and stylish like some country music singer, along with a thin, wispy beard that was also turning gray. Kyle didn’t know he was old. He still wore a leather puka shell necklace he’d bought down in Panama City Beach.
“Someone needs to put that man in his place,” Mickey said.
Kyle turned from the traffic to look at his old buddy. His face didn’t show nothing, light blue eyes looking right through him. “What are you thinking, man?”
“Shit, I don’t know.”
“Hell you don’t,” Kyle said. “You didn’t call me for the fellowship and biscuits and gravy.”
“I just think it’s wrong is all,” Mickey said. “The way Larry Cobb has spent his whole life making money by wiping his ass with people in this town.”
“You can either pray on it, or shoot his ass.”
Mickey shook his head. “What if there was another way?”
Kyle squinted into the smoke as he studied Mickey’s face. Mickey knew he was interested, that he had him, even just a little. He’d been about half and half whether he was going to even mention the thing. But he knew he needed help and Kyle Hazlewood was one of the few people he trusted in Tibbehah County, this busted-ass place ninety miles from Memphis and too damn close to Tupelo. He needed a friend right now, a man he could rely on to get the job done.
“He ever tell you about his special room?” Mickey said.
“You talking about that room off his closet?”
“Where he keeps his found money.”
“Is that what he called it?”
“I seen it,” Kyle said, rubbing his nose. “Larry’d get drunk on Wild Turkey and he’d wander back there just to show you what he got. Man can’t help himself. He got stacks and stacks of money. He told me it was because his daddy told him to never trust no banks.”
“His daddy also told him don’t pay taxes, either,” Mickey said. “You know how much shit that man has done off the books with that logging operation?”
“Last time I seen it, it was more than a million.”
“Holy shit,” Kyle said. His cell phone ringing. He took it off his hip, saw the number, and turned it off. “Just what you thinking, man?”
Mickey turned back to the Huddle House, watching the waitress behind the glass refilling cups and talking with a couple old men in the back booth. A raggedy minivan pulled into the parking lot and a fat woman with a fat baby waddled on in to get her morning feed. Kyle hadn’t moved. He was shivering a little, wearing that imitation leather red-and-black motorcycle jacket he’d had for years. Mickey remembered when Kyle was the king of Tibbehah High, rolling around the town Square in his bad ass El Camino. That same El Camino now sitting outside his work shed on blocks.
“I got a court-ordered judgment against me for a hundred grand,” Mickey said. “I’m just saying it’d be funny to pay back Larry with his own goddamn money.”
“You talking about robbing him?”
“No, sir,” he said. “I’m talking about taking what’s ours. I got a plan, but need you to be a part of it.”
“I don’t know, man,” Kyle said. “That’s a high-tech safe. He paid a couple thousand for it at the Costco in Memphis. It ain’t opening with no crowbar.”
Mickey pushed himself away from the big truck. “You don’t need a crowbar if you got the combination.”
“How the hell you know that?”
“I used to be his favorite son-in-law.”
“You were his only son-in-law.”
“I’m just talking,” Mickey said. “I just wanted to see if you’re interested first. Me and you been pals a long time. And when I heard Larry had cornholed you, too. Well, I just started thinking on the situation and how to make things right.”
“What if the combo don’t work?”
“I got a backup plan,” Mickey said. “But one step at a time. I just need to know, are you in?”
The wind kicked up Kyle’s long gray hair, the pinpoint of the Marlboro glowing in the morning cold. Trucks and cars sped up and down Highway 45, passing Tibbehah like it wasn’t no more than a spec on a map. Mickey had wanted to buy him a new jacket for Christmas, but then he’d forgot. If this here deal worked out, Kyle could buy something made of real leather this time. Maybe he could help Kyle pull himself out of the shit. That was the least he could do.
“How ‘bout I let you know?” Kyle said.
“Think on it.”
“We deserve better,” Mickey said.
“I done some things I ain’t proud of,” Kyle said. “Drugs, drinking and shit. But nothing like this. I ain’t no criminal.”
“Shit, you know stealing from a thief ain’t stealing at all?”
“What is it, then?”
Mickey rubbed his face and spit onto the eroding ridge. “Justice.”
Quinn Colson sat behind the wheel of his official sheriff’s truck, a big F-250 diesel nicknamed the Big Green Machine, looking out at a tired old apartment complex in South Memphis. There were signs adverting move-in specials and monthly rentals with an entire wing of the apartments gutted, no doors or windows, a big Dumpster below toppling with trash. The complex was on Winchester, a half-mile from the Fed Ex facility, and every few minutes a big jet would take off, rattling the truck, the apartments, and anything under its path. Lillie Virgil had come up with him, as she was the one who’d helped him track down what he needed since she had once worked as a cop in Memphis. They talked a little while they waited. Quinn saying that all the planes reminded him of his last deployment, a tent city outside an airfield in Afghanistan.
“You were telling me something?” she said. “About some kids you met there?”
“I talk too much.”
“You make goddamn Gary Cooper seem like a Chatty Cathy,” she said. “Talk to me, Quinn. What else do we have to do but wait and watch?”
“You mind if I fire up a cigar?”
“Yes, sir, I do,” Lillie said. “They smell like shit. Besides, you want those folks to see the smoke coming from the cracked windows?”
“Hell,” Quinn said. “You really think they’d notice?”
Quinn glanced down at the ashtray and a half-smoked La Gloria Cubana Black. Seemed like a damn shame to leave it, but he’d rather leave it than listen to Lillie complain. Lillie was what you’d call a strong personality, nearly as tall as him, twice as mean, and perhaps the best shot in north Mississippi. Probably all of Mississippi. Before she’d became a cop, she’d been a star shooter for the Ole Miss Rifle team. Her unruly brown hair was twisted up into a bun and any hint of her femininity covered up with a bulky hunting jacket and ball cap.
They’d left their uniforms and badges back in Tibbehah County. He didn’t want anyone to confuse why he was working in another state as a Mississippi sheriff.
“My last two deployments were at Camp Eggers,” Quinn said. “I just got an email from a kid in my platoon. He was talking about things that happened there and those kids. I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
“Goddamn it, Quinn,” Lillie said. “Just tell me the fucking story.”
“The Afghan kids sold trinkets outside the gates. You know, necklaces, tea pots, sometimes old weapons they’d found. They didn’t go to school. They made money for their families, shuffling between two forwarding operating bases at Eggers and Camp ISAF.”
“Hold old were they?” Lillie asked.
“There were two brothers,” Quinn said. “Abraham and Abdullah. I think they were ten and twelve. And their friends Noah, who was about their age, and Mariam. Mariam was a cute little girl. Precocious. She couldn’t have been more than seven or eight. Not much older than Jason.”
“Was this part of winning hearts and minds?”
“U.S. Army Rangers don’t do a lot of that,” Quinn said. “Mainly we just shoot bad guys and blow shit up. When we’d return from a mission, I’d buy stuff from those kids and send it home. I got to know them. That’s all.”
Quinn turned on the big truck’s motor to get the heat going again. He caught a glance of his face in the rearview mirror, all hard planes and angles from his distant Choctaw roots and his hair buzzed on the sides with a half inch on top. He was a wiry and lean man, still hard from ten years in the service. The expression on his face wasn’t pleasant. Next to him, Lillie rested her shoulder against the passenger door and its fogged-up window. In profile, Lillie had a very pretty face although to tell her she was pretty might be construed as an insult. Wearing makeup, letting down her hair, or wearing girly clothes wasn’t a big part of her life. She never gave a damn about what people whispered about her.
“You send that shit home to your sister?” Lillie asked.
“Mainly to my mom,” Quinn said. “And Anna Lee when I got drunk. The deployment was the longest I’d been on. I got to know those kids pretty well. I’d give them a few bucks on Thursdays before Juma. That’s the Muslims’ holy day of prayer.”
“No shit, Quinn,” Lillie said. “I read.”
In the darkness, Quinn sat behind the wheel, watching that door on the second floor unit. Watching people come and go, making mental notes of how many, how long, and what each one of them looked like in great detail. He knew Lillie was doing the same, waiting for the right moment. If it hadn’t been for Lillie’s contacts in Memphis, they’d have never found this place. Never found her. A true shit hole in a neighborhood called Holiday City.
“What happened to the kids?” Lillie said. “There’s got to be a damn reason you brought it up. You don’t bring up shit unless it’s got a goddamn point.”
“When I went back to the base a second time,” Quinn said. “The kids were still there. They remembered me. I brought them food from the mess hall, even though it was against regulations. My mother knew about them from letters. She took up a donation at the church and sent some clothes. On Christmas Eve, they presented me with an old threadbare scarf. They said it was from their families for my mother’s Christmas present.”
“I didn’t think Muslims gave flying fuck about Christmas.”
“I didn’t, either,” Quinn said. “Maybe that’s why it meant so much to me.”
“What happened to them?” Lillie said.
Quinn and Lillie watched Hispanic males walked up an outside stairwell to the second floor. They knocked on the apartment door and were let inside. Quinn was silent for a long time. He felt his breath tighten, muscles tense across his upper back and arms. Lillie had leaned forward, her eyes flicking across the scene in front of her. He’d asked her not to bring her service weapon but knew she had it on her anyway. Lillie didn’t go to Wal-Mart without her gun.
“I want to go with you.”
“That could get you in a shitload of trouble,” Quinn said. “A Mississippi deputy has no business in Memphis.”
“And what about the sheriff?”
“Considering I got all of two days left in my position?” Quinn said. “To hell with it.”
“So,” Lillie said. “The kids. Abraham, Abdullah. Noah and Miriam. What happened to them?”
“Last time I saw them was on my final deployment,” Quinn said. “That wasn’t long before I came back to Tibbehah and that mess with my uncle. They were all pretty sad I was going home. But I promised I’d go back. I worried about Abraham. He was particularly upset. He hugged me around my waist, not wanting to let me go. I promised I’d bring him back something really special.”
“And you never came back,” she said. “Because of all the shit we got into after your uncle died.”
Quinn shook his head. “Two months after I left, a suicide bomber pulled up to the front gates. All the kids were killed except Abdullah.”
Quinn could hear Lillie swallow. She didn’t speak. When he turned to her, tough, mean-ass Lillie Virgil had been crying and wiped her face. He didn’t say a word, concentrating on the two Hispanic men walking out with a black male. The black male was in his thirties, skinny, smoking a long cigarette and counting out cash in his fingers. Quinn took a long breath and reached under his seat for the familiar shape of an axe handle he’d brought from his shed.
“You stay here.”
“Stay here,” he said. “I need you to keep watch.”
“OK,” she said. “But don’t kill anyone if you can help it.”
“Appreciate the advice.”
“I wish you’d let me go,” Lillie said. “I’d wipe the floor with all those rotten sons a bitches.”
“Caddy’s my sister,” Quinn said, reaching for the door and gripping the axe handle. “It’s about time I brought her home.”
What People are Saying About This
Praise for The Forsaken
“Articulate characters [and] a densely layered stack of stories. Atkins finds his natural-born storytellers everywhere. It’s all music to these ears.”—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“Atkins excels in solid pacing, effective dialogue and compelling characters . . . Atkins shapes Quinn not as a superman, but as a flawed man who wants to do the right thing for his hometown . . . The excellent Quinn Colson novels, as illustrated in "The Forsaken," are the true showcase for Atkins' storytelling skills.”—Associated Press
“A darkly exciting thrill ride.”—Tampa Bay Times
“Don’t miss this book or series. It’s one of the best.”—Bookreporter.com
“Quinn is facing a seemingly impossible string of complications in this fourth series installment, but somehow all these layers of catastrophe make sense together, a testament to Atkins’ ability to capture small-town life. The dive into Jericho’s dark past makes for great reading as Atkins rolls through a handful of perspectives, propelling the story’s threads toward an adrenaline-laced, Wild West–style conclusion.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Atkins is at the top of his game in Quinn’s fourth appearance, filled with nonstop action and moral ambiguities. The sheriff’s many flaws only enhance his human appeal.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Lean prose, solid pacing, and a compelling lead distinguish bestseller Atkins’s gritty fourth Quinn Colson novel . . . That Quinn resembles the late Robert B. Parker’s Spenser—both are uncomplicated, principled men unafraid to use violence to protect themselves and others.”—Publishers Weekly
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Once the story got going the book was great. A little confusing knowing how all the characters for but I probably should have gone back to the start of the series.
On his last day as Sheriff, Quinn Colson, having lost an election largely manipulated by John Stagg, still remains very much involved in the affairs of Tibbehah County, MS. On New Year’s Eve, his last night on duty, an outrageous break-in occurs at the home of a “leading citizen,” a backhoe crashes through a bedroom wall and a safe containing almost $1 million in cash and other valuables, including secret records of illegal payoffs, is stolen. This part of the plot dominates the novel, as efforts continue to capture the culprits and retrieve the incriminating documents which possibly can finally enable the law to catch up with Colson’s nemesis, crime boss Johnny Stagg. But there are other subplots including Quinn’s sister, Caddy, who agrees once again to drug rehab, Quinn’s involvement with his first love, Ann Lee, a mother of two and one of the reasons he returned to Jericho after 10 years as a ranger, the reemergence of his father, Jason, now proposing to farm the old homestead and raise horses and cows, and his deputy, Lillie Virgil, who is undecided as to what to do when Quinn is replaced in office. Colson follows through even after he is replaced as Sheriff and despite overwhelming efforts by Stagg and his allies to annihilate him, facing terrible odds toward the conclusion of the novel. Once again Mr. Atkins has demonstrated Quinn’s sense of honesty and purpose, and sneakily solves the mystery of how the perpetrators of the home invasion will be brought to justice. Recommended.
Ace is a really good writer. He pulls you in and drags you along. Loved his Blues novels and his development of Robert B. PARKER's Spencer novels.
Ace Atkins has a new fan. Reviewed for Read Your Writes Book Reviews by Gemini I have never been to Tibbehah County, Mississippi and base The Redeemers, I would never want to go. Most of the people are portrayed as clueless, sex-starved hillbillies. At least, that’s my opinion. Everyone’s either smoking, drinking, or trying to get laid. Oh, and there is a handful of people that are corrupt, greedy, and entitled. There’s a truck stop next to a strip joint because truckers love strippers, I guess. And apparently if you get mad at someone, the best way to get them back is to steal from them. In the midst of all this, one former Army Ranger stands as the lone symbol of truth, justice, and the American way. Wait, that’s Superman. In The Redeemers, Superman’s real name is Quinn Coulson and he is one lethal son of a … Quinn Coulson is at the final few days of his not so illustrious career as Tibbehah County Sheriff. Although he did everything right, he did not win re-election. Apparently, votes are bought and sold in this town. The local Boss Hogg, Mr. Johnny Stagg has made sure that the local insurance salesman is the new sheriff. In addition, two other locals have decided to seek revenge on the local rich guy that has swindled them out of money. And what happens after that is nothing short of hilarious. I’m not even sure if this book was intended to be funny but between the accents and the idiots involved, I couldn’t stop laughing. Sure, people died and folks were robbed but I just didn’t care. Everyone was so over the top, I couldn’t take anything seriously. I loved The Redeemers but for all the wrong reasons. It has violence, drugs, infidelity, and plenty of references to sex and strippers. And there are also two guys from Alabama that put Laurel and Hardy to shame. They talk, and talk, and talk on and on about ‘Bama Football. Where that fits in, I have no idea but it was still funny. This is part of a series that I haven’t read so I’m not sure if all of the other books are like this but I may just have to find out. **Received a copy from Penguin Group in exchange for an honest unbiased opinion.**
Quinn is an Afghanistan vet that has made his place as the sheriff of Tibbehah County, Mississippi. Unfortunately he has just lost the election in favor for an insurance salesman that will take the guidance of local boss Johnny Stagg. Quinn starts to prepare for a time with no job but he can’t stay completely out of the mess. There is a robbery at a resident’s house but there was a lot more than just money, there is a lot of corruption that is going to make thing get pretty wild quickly. Quinn decides to come back to consult since the new sheriff is so green and things go from bad to worse. But along with the investigation Quinn has his hands full with his druggie sister, fiancé, and estranged father that have decided to hit all at once. This is my first Quinn Colson story. This book was not bad but I recommend that you read the other books in the series first; you will enjoy the story with less confusion. I really liked Quinn for the most part. You can tell he is a tough, strong character but when it comes to his fiancé he is a real dunce. This is one thing that really annoyed me about him. I loved the story. The robbers were two funny idiots, think Abbott and Costello. There was a lot of action and the story just speed along. The Reedemers is a good sized book but you will be done with this book in no time. This is a really good thriller along the line of Longmire or Sean Stranahan. It’s one that thriller/mystery lovers will really enjoy. For more information on the Quinn Colson series or to purchase the books make sure to check out Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and Ace Atkin’s website. I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I've read the books that Mr. Atkins has written for the Robert B. Parker estate and thought he has done an excellent job with keeping Spenser alive. I've not read any from his series, and that is my loss. I can't wait to start from the beginning of this series. Quinn Colson is an Army Ranger who after serving several tours comes home to Mississippi where he grew up. He ends up being elected sheriff of Tibbehah County after his uncle who held the position for many years passes away. He served several terms before he was voted out of office by the crooked and corrupt machinations of the town's underworld. Quinn's last day of serving as sheriff falls on December 31st. While he is waiting his term out, he's also dealing with some difficult family and personal issues that he has to resolve. Before he can decide what to do with next phase of his life. During this time a local businessman , Mickey Walls is plotting to steal his crooked ex father-in-law's of all the money that he has acquired by shady business dealings. Mickey has enlisted the help of his best friend and also a supposedly hot shot safecracker from Alabama. The safecracker happens to bring his idiot nephew along as an apprentice which turns out to be a huge mistake to say the least. This burglary has to take place on New Year's Eve because his ex in-laws are supposed to be out of town. Mickey, who everyone knows despises his ex father-in- law also has to be out of town with an ironclad alibi as well because he knows he'll be the number one suspect regarding this caper. Needless to say things doesn't go as planned. The Alabama safecracker and his nephew add quite a bit of dark humor to the story. This book had a lot of action in it and was very entertaining to say the least. It has strong characters and many twists and turns. I love reading a mystery series, that when you are finished reading it you are begging for more. That's exactly what Mr. Atkins does here. He has left me wanting more of Quinn and what his next move is going to be. I didn't want the book to end that's for sure