The Real Book Spy reviews THE SHAMELESS

From The Real Book Spy, June 27:

A twenty-year-old mystery plagues the people of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, and it’s up to Sheriff Quinn Colson to find answers—no matter who they implicate—in the latest thriller from Ace Atkins.

The proverbial crap has hit the fan. While he should be knee-deep in the honeymoon phase after his recent marriage to his longtime girlfriend, ER nurse Maggie Powers, Quinn Colson finds himself surrounded by controversy as he struggles to put out the fires that seem to be burning all around Tibbehah County.

There’s Jimmy Vardaman, a greedy, shady politician who represents all that is wrong with politics in general. Fannie Hathcock, a recurring villain, continues to run prostitutes and control the region’s drug trade through ties she maintains to the “Dixie Mafia,” though she has her own issues in this one—which Quinn inevitably gets sucked into. But none of those problems prove to be as dire as the situation surrounding Brandon Taylor, who went wandering into the woods at fifteen years old, only to be found dead from an apparent suicide in 1997.

Unhappy with the way the investigation was handled two decades prior, Shaina, Brandon’s sister, invites two freelance journalists from New York to travel south and help her shine a national spotlight on her brother’s cold case. Enter Tashi Coleman and her “producer” Jessica Torres, the duo behind a semi-popular podcast called Thin Air, who aren’t afraid to raise a little hell if it means getting one step closer to uncovering the truth and, of course, attracting viewers.

For Quinn, the already delicate situation is made infinitely worse by the fact that it was his now-disgraced uncle, Hamp Beckett, who ruled that the kill shot was self-inflicted—and theories begin to circulate that Hamp did so to protect a number of powerful, corrupt individuals. From what, exactly, Quinn doesn’t know, but as he begins re-visiting the past, it doesn’t take him long to realize that doing so will land him in the cross-hairs of some major players who would just as well prefer the mystery stay buried forever . . . even if it means adding a few more bodies to the mix.

At first glance, it almost seems like Atkins may have tried to mix too many storylines this time around—several of which weren’t yet touched on—but he somehow manages to thread them all together in a way that not only makes sense but adds a sense of urgency to the plot. Without a single dull page to be found and zero “fluff,” Atkins’ latest moves at a steady clip, touching on a number of timely issues, including human trafficking, corrupt politicians, “fake news,” drugs, and even immigration (Quinn’s sister, Caddy, is a former drug addict who now runs a shelter for abused women and immigrants). Through it all, Atkins continues to develop his series protagonist, along with his growing family, and never fails to capture the Mississippi setting in a way that only he and fellow bestselling author Gregg Iles seem to be able to pull off.

Bottom line: If Ace Atkins isn’t already on your summer reading list, put him there . . . The Shameless is some of his best work yet, and a must-read for fans of C.J. Box, Gregg Iles, and Craig Johnson.

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