Book review: New Colson novel delves into old death, raw politics

  • "The Shameless" by Ace Atkins

    "The Shameless" by Ace Atkins Associated Press/G.P. Putnam's Sons

By Kendal Weaver
Associated Press
Posted7/14/2019 7:27 AM

"The Shameless" by Ace Atkins; Putnam; 458 pages;

Ace Atkins' latest in his Quinn Colson series finds the rural Mississippi sheriff wrestling with modern media and current political discontent.


On the media side, "Thin Air," a crime-solving podcast out of New York City, latches onto an old death case with links to Colson in his teenage years. He becomes a suspect in the eyes of the multi-episode podcast. Was a boy's murder covered up?

Meanwhile, Colson probes criminal acts in Tibbehah County possibly tied to a disreputable candidate for governor, Jimmy Vardaman, who has rolled over Mississippi's establishment elite and surged into the lead. Rabid supporters sport rebel flags. One holds a sign, "Deplorable Lives Matter." Armed men in black T-shirts and dark glasses protect him.

"This past year I've been called a radical and a racist," Vardaman says in a stump speech at the Neshoba County Fair. "But let me tell you something, friends, don't you listen to what the fake news tells you."

Atkins peppers the narrative with allusions to President Donald Trump, but he also sticks to Colson saga basics: The sheriff is battling backwoods crime -- prostitution, drugs, corruption -- that he hoped to clean up when he retired as an Army Ranger, returned home to Jericho and won election.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

"The Shameless," like Atkins' earlier Colson books, ties the sheriff's family history and personal life to the broader Tibbehah County intrigues and investigations. This brings several story lines into play as the podcast team raises questions about the shooting death of a high school teen 20 years earlier deep in a forest.

There is a sudden plot twist that some may view as a flaw in the narrative structure. But Atkins tends to smooth this out as further events unfold, and the surprise element is a feature of the novel.

Country music, blues and a variety of popular songs are invoked in many scenes; one of the songs is the Garth Brooks' cover of "Shameless." But the book's title, for the most part, refers to those who, without apology, twist truth or commit crimes to serve themselves. That's a tough foe, even for Quinn Colson.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.