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The Fallen by Ace Atkins

Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on July 18, 2017

Ace Atkins always makes me laugh. He brings intelligence and fair-minded wit to his portrayal of a South that cloaks bigotry and hypocrisy in the language of “old-fashioned values” and “a Christian way of life.” Atkins doesn’t paint all residents of rural Mississippi with the same brush, but he isn’t afraid to expose persistent ugliness. Of course, readers who think that bigotry is a Christian value will probably dislike this novel, but there are plenty of "values" novels by lesser authors with which they can entertain themselves.

Values aside, Atkins always tells a good story, mixing strong characters with a convincing plot. He does all that again in The Fallen, his latest Quinn Colson novel.

In true southern tradition, the residents of Tibbehah County blamed acting Sheriff Lillie Virgil for arresting a coach who was molesting kids (rather than blaming the coach), paving the way for a reluctant Quinn Colson to win his old position as sheriff. Now the county supervisors want to take Tibbehah back to its godly roots. To do that, they want to enforce an ordinance constraining activities at the local titty bar by proclaiming their adherence to wholesome southern values, notwithstanding the county’s long tradition of prostitution, moonshine, and support for the Klan — but their concerns have more to do with greed than morality.

Apart from the normal problems caused by rednecks at the local titty bar, the crime that occupies Quinn in The Fallen is a bank robbery. The robbers are three veterans who haven’t adjusted to civilian life and enjoy the thrill of robbing small town banks. A subplot involves two teenage girls (last seen in The Innocents) who have gone missing.

All of those storylines intertwine. Apart from the bank robberies, the storylines are a continuation of events developed in earlier novels. While novels in some series can be read in any order, that’s not true of the Quinn Colson series. To follow the story, it’s best to start at the beginning and watch the characters and their situations evolve over time. It might be possible to read The Fallen as a stand-alone, but the novel assumes a familiarity with the series. It doesn’t summarize past events in any detail, which might leave new readers wondering what’s going on with some of the characters.

Reliable supporting characters in the series return in The Fallen. In addition to Lillie, other returning characters include Boom Kimbrough, Quinn’s sister Caddie and mother Jean, and titty bar owner Fannie Hathcock. Some aspects of the story are sad, reflecting the reality that life doesn’t always come with a happy ending and that bad guys don’t always get their just deserts. That might turn off readers who are looking for a happier world in their fiction, but the redeeming qualities of the Quinn Colson series are found in Quinn, Lillie, Caddie, and Boom, who are never afraid to stand for what’s right, and who know that what’s right has to do with how people treat each other, as opposed to hypocritical posturing about “old-fashioned values."


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