THE LOST ONES by Ace Atkins is a well-crafted police procedural featuring the new sheriff of a small Mississippi county. Quinn Colson is back in his home town, fresh from war, and his old high school buddies are, too. Not everyone has come back to gainful employment, however, and Quinn has his hands full as an old crony gets into a gun-running scheme and another turns to drink as a way of escaping the misery of being left with only one arm. Quinn himself has ghosts to lay to rest that include a messed-up sister whose backstory is entwined with Quinn’s–and skillfully explained in a series of flashbacks–as well as the legacy of his uncle, the former sheriff whose last days were marred by scandal.
Ace Atkins has a gift for capturing the voices of his characters and is able to assemble a cast who speak to each other–and the reader–with clearly defined personalities which all perfectly fit the rural Mississippi location and their divergent motives. Quinn is clearly the good guy, trying to do the right thing while keeping his own vulnerabilities under wraps. He’s the star of the ensemble but the gun-runner is painted the perfect shade of gray–a once likable small-time guy who went to the show and now finds the small town too confining–but isn’t smart enough to see very far beyond it. By the same token the women in Quinn’s life–notably his mother and his best deputy–have fit themselves into the small town and are trying to make the best of it.
Although the personalities take top honors in this mystery, the action moves along at a fair pace as Quinn hunts for a couple who are selling children and mistreating them along the way. Switches between Quinn’s investigation through the wilds of rural Mississippi and the crony who is selling weapons to a Mexican gang keeps the suspense going.
Ace Atkins as Spenser
The two plotlines converge nicely and the book wraps up cleanly, making for a classic police procedural mystery. Quinn and the supporting cast make for an excellent read and a series with all the hallmarks of the very best a reader cold want in this genre. It is clear why Atkins was selected to continue Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series–he has the same tempo, gift for authentic dialogue and ability to create compelling characters.