After six years away, Army Ranger Quinn Colson returns home to Jericho, Mississippi to attend his uncle's funeral. The townspeople believe his uncle, Sheriff Hampton Beckett, committed suicide, but Quinn doesn't accept it, feeling loyalty to a man who helped raise him.
I identified most strongly with the theme of coming home, being forced to revisit the past, reopen old wounds. In the process, Quinn finds himself opposed to the county's most prominent developer and the muscle hired to compel Quinn to sell land inherited from Hamp. The Ranger has the feel of a contemporary Western. Good and evil aren't black and white, giving the novel its complexity and surprise.
While I'm ready to embrace Quinn as a new series protagonist, I can't help addressing comparisons to Robert B. Parker's work. Atkins has been tabbed to continue Parker's Spenser series, but also The Ranger is dedicated to Parker's memory.
The novel does feature a moral protagonist and clipped dialogue, but if those were the only criteria, many more novels could be called Parkeresque. I'd say that Atkins and Parker share the eloquence to spin a fully realized tale without wasting a word. Atkins's style in The Ranger is markedly different in that he uses multiple third-person viewpoints, exploring Quinn and the people he meets. The book comes in at 334 pages, but at no point did I feel rushed or cheated.
Atkins's talent deserves continued recognition under his own name. I'm glad he'll be writing this new series in addition to taking on Spenser.