Sheriff Quinn Colson's mission to clean up Tibbehah County, Miss., doesn't get easier, as Ace Atkins (The Lost Ones) shows in The Heathens, the 11th novel in this exciting, multi-layered series that has earned two Edgar nominations. Atkins's series forcefully tackles racism, war veterans, small-town corruption and greed. The Heathens adds issues of children raising children and social media influence.
Quinn, a former U.S. Army Ranger, is used to varied criminals--some uncannily sharp, many downright dumb. But The Heathens has Quinn chasing his most unusual criminals: 17-year-old Tanya Jane ("TJ") Byrd, accused of murdering her mother, Gina, a drug addict with a penchant for abusive men. TJ has fled with her nine-year-old brother, John Wesley, boyfriend Ladarius McCade and best friend Holly Harkins. Along the way, they pick up wealthy teenager Chastity Bloodgood, who joins after they break into one of her father's houses and has too much fun making TJ a social-media darling (300,000 likes!). TJ has a reputation for being meaner than a snake, but Quinn doesn't believe she would murder her mother. Despite the many cars TJ and her friends have stolen and the homes they've broken into as they travel to California, Quinn believes they're running because they're scared, not guilty. Quinn's search for the real killer puts him at odds with his friend and former employee Lillie Virgil, now a deputy U.S. marshal, as well as the county's usual miscreants.
Atkins's skillful blend of an action-packed pursuit, complicated relationships and a heavy dose of compassion for the young gang elevates The Heathens. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer