Atkins is at the point now where these Quinn Colson books seem automatic. Don't mistake me -- these are well-crafted, carefully plotted, richly detailed -- Atkins' labor is more than evident. But there's something inevitable about the result of that effort. You don't even have to wonder what you're going to get anymore. If it's Quinn Colson, it's going to be good.
This also tends to make it hard to review these books, but I'll give it a shot.
This time out Colson and Virgil are asked to investigate a cold case from a year or two before Colson was born, and when his less than ethical Uncle was Sheriff. Two teen girls walking home from Fourth of July festivities in Jericho were raped and one was murdered. Two days later, a black man, bearing no resemblance <i>what</i>soever to the perpetrator was lynched for the crime. Decades later, one father's guilt and the mature strength of the survivor ask the now honest (at least when it comes to his job) Sheriff to find the man truly responsible. To say that this makes anyone involved unpopular in Jericho would be an understatement of the first degree.
Which is a shame, because right now, both Deputy and Sherriff could use some popularity. Colson's feud with Johnny Stagg is getting hotter, a new election is on the horizon, and Stagg's framing of Virgil for murder is looking stronger and stronger every day. On the other hand, one of the few men in this world that Stagg fears is about to be paroled and is likely to return to Jericho and rekindle their rivalry. Maybe Stagg could use a determined and honorable man in office after all.
Surrounding this is the town and people of Jericho, and their recovery from the recent devastating tornado. Colson's sister, Caddy, has really seemed to find herself in her leadership in this area. It's hard to recognize the woman from the first two books in what we see now. Even Colson's having to admit that there might be something to his sister's current state of sobriety and responsibility. Their father's name came up in the course of his investigation, and for the first time in a very long while, Quinn Colson's being forced to think about the man who abandoned his mother, sister and himself so long ago. Naturally, this is where the real heart of the novel is -- the rest of it is merely the life around Quinn, this is Quinn's inner life, his identity.
Not only are all of these strings in one way or another being woven together now, we begin to see that there might be ways in which they were tied together before and around that fateful Independence Day.
We don't get a lot of resolution and closure to things in this novel -- not unlike life in that regard, but we get to see some trajectories on most fronts, and that's good enough. Character, setting, story, mood -- all of it is just right for this story and this series. Atkins may be getting attention and sales from his Spenser novels, but his strength is here with Colson and the rest.