Written By: Ace Atkins
Reviewed By:  James L. Dickerson

“The Sinners” is Ace Atkins’ eighth Quinn Colson crime novel. As fans of the Colson series know, he returned to Mississippi after serving overseas in combat in the U.S. Army to make a career out of law enforcement, only to discover that his worldly experiences are both a hindrance and an aid in fighting crime in a state that has the lowest IQs and highest level of mental illness of any state.

By the time we meet Sheriff  Colson again in “The Sinners,” he has lost his top deputy and is finding the going difficult with the so-so deputies he has to work with.  As he is getting prepared to marry a woman with “pale green eyes, a strong but delicate jaw, and a smallish, imperfect nose that she’d broken playing softball in high school,” storm clouds roll into his world.

Standing in the way of that blissful marital moment are the Pritchards, a good-for-nothing, white trash family that farms a piece of land not far from town. It is a farm that alternates its corn rows with marijuana rows. Selling the pot are two of the boys, both of whom moonlight as half-crazy, race car drivers.

The problem with growing marijuana instead of importing it from Mexico is that it rubs the local gangsters the wrong way, especially the ones that have topless bars in their business plan, Then, complicating the picture is the syndicate down on the coast that has a business plan that does not take into account the negative publicity garnered by redneck pot farmers. 

As all hell breaks loose over the murder of a black man who was caught sniffing around the Pritchards’s farm, Colson realizes the only way he can bring the chaos under control is with the help of his best friend Boom Kimbrough, a black, one-armed vet who drives an eighteen-wheeler that more often than not carries a cargo to or from the syndicate.

Colson has his hands full. Sometimes it is difficult for an honest man in love to figure out what has gone wrong in his life, especially if he is the sheriff of a county that has blurred lines when it comes to right and wrong. Walking the straight and narrow sometimes involves skipping over the occasional rough patch.

I loved this novel. It bristles with energy that snaps at the reader with unpredictable tenacity, a trademark of this author.

In my opinion, Ace Atkin, who has written seven New York Tines bestselling novels, is the best crime fiction writer walking the planet. What sets him apart is his ability to recognize the nuances and complexities of the humanity that is at risk in these turbulent times. Crime fiction can be a limiting genre, but Atkins has elevated it to a high art.

James L. Dickerson is the publisher of NEW ORLEANS REVIEW OF BOOKS, and the author of 35 books.  He once served as the bailiff in a brutal murder trial in the Mississippi Delta, at the request of the sheriff, who had a sudden emergency to take care of. “If that boy gives you any trouble, you know what to do,” advised the sheriff as he departed the courtroom.