My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I remember reading a review of one of the new Jesse Stone author’s books, where the reviewer wished that Atkins had taken over Stone as well as Spenser, wondering what that would’ve been like. Well, I don’t think we need to wonder–Quinn Colson is Atkins’ Jesse Stone.
The catch is, Colson’s Jericho, MS isn’t Stone’s Paradise, MA.* It’s poorer, everyone knows everyone’s business, everyone’s — criminal and not alike — a bit more open about everything (to an extent); and everything seems bleaker — more hopeless — more real?
I’d say something like how the stakes haven’t been higher for Colson and his county, but that’s pretty much a given — Atkins keeps upping the stakes, the tension and the action each time out. The violence — at least the scale of it — is toned down here. It’s a sign of skill and confidence that, Atkins doesn’t feel compelled to have major armed confrontations in each novel. In addition to three escaped convicts coming to Colson’s county, there’s a recently pardoned murderer trying to show that he’s worth the pardon (despite a lot of warranted cynicism from Jericho’s citizenry). Naturally, the escapees have unfinished business with him — and are going to do whatever they can to make him hold up his end of the bargain.
Oh, did I mention that Colson’s troubled sister is romantically involved with the newly pardoned man? Yeah, there’s plot complications a’plenty there. Throw in other personal and political storylines that have been building and developing since the first book, and there’s a good deal for Colson and his associates to deal with.
What’s best about this — both daring and inventive — is throwing a natural disaster in the middle of the action. It keeps the story from playing out as the reader expects, creates hurdles for all the characters, and gives a couple of people the chance to show their true colors.
I have no idea how Atkins is going to pull off the next book — at least I hope he limits it to one book, some writers might stretch it out — the fallout from this one is going to be messy. But I can’t wait to read it.
* And Colson’s a better soldier than a cop, and…it’s not a perfect analogy. Roll with it.