The first thing you want to do after being shot is make sure you are not shot again.
That sentence just makes me grin. Which, honestly, is not something that someone spends a lot of time doing while reading a Quinn Colson novel. But The Redeemers is not your typical Quinn Colson novel.
We start off with Quinn on one of his last days as sheriff — Johnny Stagg, the man Boss Hogg wanted to be, finally worked his magic and got the election result that he worked so hard for — Quinn’s out and a man of his backing is in. Most readers are going to instinctively prefer Colson. and want to not like his successor, Rusty Wise. Rusty was most recently an insurance salesman, although he did work as a police officer for a time (nothing to noteworthy in his career — or at least not that Stagg didn’t bury). The problem with being anti-Rusty is that he’s actually a decent guy (sorry, Johnny), who honestly thought he could do a better job than Colson — and gets thrown into the fire on his first day (hours before it, really). Now, we all know — and Lillie Virgil will tell you — Wise is no Colson, not even close. But he’s trying.
On the other end of the spectrum, are a few idiotic criminals — you’ve got the so-called master safe cracker and his University of Alabama Football-obsessed nephew/apprentice, hired by a local to help he and his friend get revenge on a crooked businessman. I’m fairly certain these criminals had noticed that they had no place to live without Elmore Leonard, so they dropped by to see how they’d fare in Tibbehah County. Short answer: they were better off before. If you don’t chuckle at these numbskulls at least one, call your doctor and get your funny bone checked. Lille and Wise have the lead on this investigation, but the wife of their victim gets Colson to check into it a bit, too.
He gets pulled in because that woman is the aunt of Anna Lee — who has definitively left her husband, who has definitively left town, so she and Quinn can definitively do something about their old flame. Which is just one of the balls that Quinn has to keep in the air on the personal side — his father’s moving into Quinn’s house and bringing his horses on to Quinn’s land; his sister Caddy has fallen way off the wagon again; and Quinn’s unemployed — unless he wants to get a job at the new Wal-Mart, he’s going to have to do something about that. There’s an element of “oh, this again?” with Caddy’s struggles with drug addiction. But what do you want from that kind of thing? And with Quinn’s father, I felt a strong, “ugh, how long are we going to out up with this guy?” (I think Quinn agrees with me),
You have to ask (and people do), why does Quinn stay in Jericho? For that matter, why does Caddy (not just because Quinn drags her back), why does Lillie? Part of it is because it’s where they grew up, where they are home. Part of it, is hard to pin down, but Quinn touches on it while talking with the federal agent, undercover in Stagg’s business:
“There’s more to the place than the ugliness,” Quinn said. “Maybe someday I can take you out hunting and fishing and you can know more than just that . . . truck stop. Get out on Choctaw Lake and out into the National Forest.”
“I’d like that.”
“Folks like Stagg and Cobb haven’t ripped all the guts out of the place,” Quinn said. “There’s still a lot left.”
I do fear that Assistant Sheriff Lillie Virgil is given short shrift again. Yes, every time she’s used, she’s: competent, dangerous, smarter than most people in the room with her. She just seems to get the short end of the stick when it comes to story, to emotional arcs, and the like. I want more for her — professionally, personally, and narratively. Now, along the same lines, but perhaps more importantly: can someone arrange a novel/short story/something where Lille and Vic Moretti team up? Yes, it’s possible that would be just too much feminine toughness and gunplay for audiences. But surely, it has to be tried.
For the most part the book keeps trudging along — interesting, occasionally funny — but nothing special — Stagg’s up to his thing, Quinn’s figuring out his next move, the Leonard refugees are seemingly trying to get caught. But nothing that really grabs you. Until you get to the last 60± pages, that is. After lulling the reader into a false sense of security, Atkins packed a while lotta happenings, and loose ends being tied up and bodies being dropped into these pages. Action, and emotion, and a dream sequence that seems straight out of Craig Johnson.
In interviews, Atkins states that the next novel is going to be dark (which is part of why this is so light) — I’m a little worried about what that means. I’m pretty sure the only one who’s safe is the guy who’s name is in the series title (though it wouldn’t surprise me if he got really banged up — but he’ll survive).