cover image The Heathens

The Heathens

Ace Atkins. Putnam, $27 (464p) ISBN 978-0-593-32839-2

In Edgar finalist Atkins’s exceptional 11th crime thriller featuring Tibbehah County, Miss., Sheriff Quinn Colson (after 2020’s The Revelators), Colson’s complex family past complicates a murder investigation. Gina Byrd, a drug addict who was a classmate of Colson’s, is reported missing by her boyfriend after he finds some bloody clothes near her trailer. When Byrd’s dismembered remains turn up covered in bleach and stuffed into a barrel, Byrd’s 17-year-old daughter, TJ, who recently beat up her mother, is a natural suspect. TJ is reluctant to trust Colson, because the previous sheriff, Hamp Beckett, Colson’s uncle, was rumored to have killed her father, and fears she’s being framed. TJ flees town along with her nine-year-old brother, John Wesley, and her boyfriend, pursued by Colson’s friend and former subordinate, Lillie Virgil, now a deputy U.S. Marshal. Atkins artfully alternates between that pursuit and Colson’s search for the people he believes slaughtered Byrd. The diverse cast of characters and their intricate relationships elevate this above most other gritty crime novels. Atkins is writing at the top of his game. Agent: Dan Conaway, Writers House. (July)