Monday, June 13, 2011

The Ranger - Ace Atkins

First line: "Quinn headed home, south on the Mississippi highway, in a truck he'd bought in Phenix City, Alabama, for fifteen hundred, a U.S. Army rucksack beside him stuffed with enough clothes for the week and a sweet Colt .44 Anaconda he'd won in a poker game.

Quinn Colson left Tibbeheah County to join the Army and fight in Afghanistan. He returns home to his uncle's funeral to find a completely different place than he left. Forced into circumstances he had no hand in creating, Quinn tries to reign in evil forces only to uncover secrets that hit far too close to home.

THE RANGER is the first book in a new series for Ace Atkins. And it's an explosive way to start a new series. Quinn Colson is a complex characters with many jagged edges, but a few soft, rounded parts, too.

Lillie Virgil, a supporting character, in Atkins' cast is a wonderful female battling for her place in a region that still hasn't come to fully embrace women. Atkins balances her ambition and drive with her compassion without turning either characteristic unbelievable.

On the flip side of Atkins' protagonist is the brutal ugliness of the methamphetamine business. As complex as Atkins creates his hero, he matches that complexity in the antagonists. And a slew of characters are trapped somewhere in between where the good and evil blur boundaries.

The plot of THE RANGER makes for a compulsive read; the audience simply has to keep turning pages. But there's trepidation with every turn, like sitting in a movie theater knowing something is going to jump up at you; covering your eyes with your hands but not being able to resist peaking through your fingers. And when it finally does jump out at you, the anticipation makes the scare even greater.

Atkins creates that anticipation with his atmosphere. In the opening sentence I heard echos of Faulkner. Atkins follows in the southern tradition, creating the pacing and tone in the setting as well as the action. THE RANGER is a perfect example of a book transporting its reader to a new world. Whether you're intimately familiar with Mississippi or not, you'll feel as though you are after reading this novel. Through his protagonist, Atkins illustrates a love of a region that is far from perfect.

The dialogue drips with various sounds of the South, adding to the dimension of the characters. An audio version of this may be a difficult sell for me because the characters were so vividly alive in my imagination and most especially so through their voices. Atkins does a meticulous job of giving each character a distinctive voice.

I'm extremely excited about this series. Quinn Colson and Lillie Virgil are characters I can embrace, root for, and look forward to. Here's to the start of a beautiful series!

THE RANGER is available now in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0399157486) from Putnam.


bermudaonion June 13, 2011 at 8:25 AM  

I've been anxious to try Atkins work ever since I read that he went to Auburn High School (my son did too) and Auburn University. I'm glad to see this is so good!

carolsnotebook June 13, 2011 at 2:21 PM  

Glad to see this one's so good. It's sitting on my countertop waiting for me.

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