The Ranger by Ace Atkins
(Putnam, $25.95, 354 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-15748-6)
Some of the best thrillers and mysteries are driven by the idea that an ordinary woman or man is somehow caught up in an extraordinary situation. Time and place, or circumstances and events force the protagonist to act. Maybe it’s fate, maybe it’s not, but he or she is inexorably compelled to get involved. The Ranger is just such a book.
When US Army ranger Colson Quinn returns home on leave for the funeral of the uncle who raised him, he finds his northwest Mississippi hometown overrun with crime. A well-known scoundrel is running the county and Quinn’s uncle, the county sheriff, is dead by his own hand. Meth dealers are openly manufacturing and dealing their product, prostitution and crime are flourishing. Colson Quinn, the Ranger rides into town in (what else) a pickup truck and takes on the bad guys in a way that reminded me a lot of High Noon, the ’50’s western starring Gary Cooper. If you like your heroes crew-cut and wrapped in red, white and blue, you’ll be cheering for Quinn and his sidekicks, a one-armed black man who happens to be a decorated war hero and a female deputy sheriff named Lillie Virgil.
Atkins has written several stand-alone crime novels, but this one looks to be the first of a series. And with the author’s pitch-perfect ear for southern speech and dialogue; I think his name will be on the best seller lists soon.