Each of the Quinn Colson books has 3 or 4 things going on (it really depends how you want to break things down): There's a central crime story, a Quinn story, a wider Colson-family story (usually Caddy-centric -- by the way, try writing about Caddy right after listening to a novel featuring Walt Longmire's daughter, Cady, it'll bend your mind), a story about goings-on in the wider Tibbehah County and Jericho area (typically criminal, but not necessarily part of the other crime story). Now, these blend into each other all the time, and are hard to strictly delineate, but that's how I think about these books anyhow. Were a grade or degree on the line, I could define this better -- but we'll settle for this. Now, typically the central crime story is just that, central -- it's the driving force behind the novel and the other things happen around it. With The Fallen, however, it felt like the central crime story functioned mostly to give an excuse to tell the other stories -- sort of a time frame to hang the rest on.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing -- but it's not a good one.
There's a group of highly efficient, disciplined bank robbers on a spree through the south, and naturally they hit Jericho. They're out of town in a flash, with Quinn and Lillie not able to do much. Still, this is a challenge that Lillie sinks her teeth into (and Quinn, too -- to a lesser extent). The trio is not as amusing as the goofballs from The Redeemers, and thankfully, they aren't has horrifying as some of the others (see The Innocents, for example). I could easily have spent some more time with them, though. Their story is pretty compelling and rings true.
Quinn is settling back into his job as Sheriff, with Lillie as his Assistant Sheriff . There's a new county supervisor, Skinner, making life difficult for everyone, although Boom Kimbrough and Fannie Hathcock seem to be top of his list. But it doesn't seem like anyone who doesn't share his vision for Jericho -- a halcyon 50's vision -- will have much of a chance against him. You get the impression even Johnny Stagg prefers his incarceration to dealing with Skinner. We'll be seeing more of Skinner.
Caddy and Boom actually get the more interesting investigation in the novel -- with some help from Lillie. Caddy's looking for a couple of teen girls that she's afraid have fallen into Fannie's employment -- but it turns out to be more complicated than that. What they stumble on is disturbing, at the least, and will push Caddy's buttons in a way little else has. Once he learns about it, Quinn's not crazy about what she's up to -- but when is he?
There's a lot of movement in long-term arcs, and while it'd be wrong to say that nothing happens other than moving pieces around on the chessboard to set up for books #8 and on, it frequently feels like it. I'm not crazy about any of the things that did occur in this novel (matters of taste and how I want things to go for particular characters -- Atkins nailed it all, it's not on his execution) -- but man, what it means for the next couple of books has got me ready to fork over money right now.
Still, while I found the main crime story wanting, and wasn't crazy about the long-term arc developments, this was a good book. Atkins has infused -- and continues to do so -- this community and these characters with so much life, so much reality, that the reader gets sucked in and can't help but care about everyone. It's only when I stopped to think about and write about the book that I had these issues -- in the moment, I couldn't have cared less about what was going on in actual Idaho -- Jericho, Mississippi was what it was all about.
Solid crime fiction from one of the best working today.
Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Putnam Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this..