Meet Quinn Colson in “The Ranger”
Author: Ace Atkins
Ace Atkins begins a new series of novels with The Ranger. The author of such titles as Dirty South and Devil’s Garden introduces a new character with Quinn Colson, an Army Ranger being phased out of active duty at the ripe old age of 30.
The Ranger finds Quinn returning to his small Mississippi hometown to attend the funeral of his uncle. His mother still lives in town but his father – a has-been Hollywood stunt man – is long gone. Quinn grew up with his uncle, also the town sheriff, as a father figure – someone he admired. Upon his return he learns that the man’s death has been ruled a suicide.
Shaken but holding onto his decade-old identity as a Ranger, Quinn carries out his familial duties after the funeral as well as following up on some rumors that there may be more to this death than meets the eye.
Quinn Colson is a reasonably strong character. His past and his ties to this small community are complex (both positive and negative) leaving lots of room to explore in future installments. The skills he acquired in the military make him more than capable of tackling some unsavory elements that have risen to prominence in the area during his absence.
He also renews his relationship with an old friend who lost an arm in the Middle East, faces an ex-girlfriend (now married) and becomes friendly with a woman deputy who believes his uncle’s death is suspicious.
Atkins has set up a fairly likable set of characters and plopped them into a decent mystery with some nasty bad guys. Mixing in pieces of Quinn’s past helps flesh out the story. Unfortunately, he sets the entire thing in such a singularly bleak setting that it’s hard to get through the book. Quinn is a good guy, but he isn’t clever or witty or even particularly communicative. His strong silence might work on the screen (add in some witty banter and he’s not unlike Raylan Givens from the TV series Justified) but in writing the dismal, cold, muddy Southern winter filled with poverty, trash and general misery lacks any charm whatsoever and the characters are never allowed to acknowledge that they’re existing in a crap-hole with no hope of improvement or change.
So, despite a decent set of characters and solid plotting, The Ranger failed to engage me enough to want to return to its perpetual gloom. 3 out of 5 stars for The Ranger, but I won’t be coming back for more of Quinn Colson.