You know what they say, “there’s no place like home.” That is especially true in Ace Atkins’ latest Quinn Colson novel, The Innocents.
Returning to Tibbehah, Mississippi, after a brief stint in Afghanistan where he helped train the local police force, Quinn Colson finds his hometown in rough shape. Among Quinn’s top priorities is to repair his relationship with his high school sweetheart, Anna Lee Stevens, who recently up and split with her husband.
But when Lillie Virgil, Quinn’s former smart-mouthed, sharp-shooting deputy who is currently serving as the first female sheriff the town has ever elected, requests his help, Quinn can’t seem to tell an old friend no.
Virgil and Quinn, a former Army Ranger, are knee-deep in a murder case involving an eighteen-year-old named Milly Jones, a local girl and former cheerleader.
Milly, in an effort to get out of Tibbehah, took a job as a dancer at a strip club. Her plan was to save up enough money to skip town, ripping off the club’s owner, Fannie Hathcock, in the process. Unfortunately for Milly, she didn’t make it very far. She was found fully engulfed in flames, walking down the road before finally succumbing to her injuries as she slowly burned to death.
Sheriff Virgil has pegged Hathcock and her goons as the prime suspects in Milly’s murder, but there are several other persons of interest to consider. Among them are Milly’s father, a mean old drunk who kicked her out with nowhere to go, and two young men who were previously seen with her.
Nito Reece, a former drug dealer with a rap sheet and gang ties, was seen driving Milly around in his car just a few days before her death. Likewise, Sammi Khoraki, a local gas station employee who claims to have been her friend, is suspected of killing her in an act of terrorism.
Things take an interesting turn, however, when their investigation leads Quinn and Virgil to one of Milly’s friends, who claims Milly told her something in secret before she left–which, if true, would have shocking implications for the small, bible-touting town.
The revelation has to do with the circumstances surrounding Milly’s brother’s suicide from a few years ago. The question is, do Quinn and Virgil trust the source enough to do some digging? And if they do find proof, would the town’s people ever believe them?
Ace Atkins serves up another juicy helping of deep-fried homicide, proving once again that crime novels set in the deep South are always more compelling.
Aside from searching for Milly’s murderer, there’s a secondary plot that involves some of the players from last year’s The Redeemers, and a potentially lucrative business proposition that longtime readers of this series will likely enjoy.
The main plot was fun to follow, but the secondary plots (one of which involves Quinn’s father, who was mostly absent during his childhood), make it a little hard to keep all of the characters straight sometimes. But the biggest downfall, in my opinion, was the way the book ended. With so many ways the story could have gone, I was genuinely surprised that Atkins chose to tie things up the way he did. That said, I’ll definitely be back for more next year!
Author: Ace Atkins
Pages: 367 (Hardcover)
Release Date: July 12, 2016