The Heathens by Ace Atkins—an entertaining deep-fried crime thriller.
Sheriff Quinn Colson and his former deputy Lillie Virgil find themselves on opposite sides of a case for the first time after a woman is found dead and three delinquent teens go on the run.
Before he was an Army Ranger who came home to become Tibbehah County Sheriff and take down a corrupt system, Quinn Colson was a kid who got into trouble–a lot of it. So when juvenile delinquent TJ Byrd insists that she doesn’t know who killed her mother—an unreliable addict who has disappeared—Quinn’s inclined to believe her. But no one else does–not the town, not the sheriff in a neighboring county, not her mother’s older boyfriend, and certainly not Quinn’s friend and former deputy, U.S. Marshal Lillie Virgil.
The Byrd family has always been trouble, and sixteen-year-old TJ is known for petty theft, fighting, and general hellraising. She’s also no fool, and when she senses she’s about to take the fall for her mother’s murder, TJ, her boyfriend, her best friend, and her nine-year-old brother go on the run. As Lillie Virgil tracks the kids across a trail of burglaries, stolen cars and even a kidnapping, intent on bringing TJ to justice, Quinn sets out to find the truth back in Tibbehah. Someone has gone to a lot of violent trouble to make TJ and her friends the logical target of the investigation. It’s easy, and who cares about a bunch of lawless kids?
As the bloody evidence against TJ piles up, Quinn knows someone truly evil is at work here–and that puts TJ and her friends in more danger than they can imagine.
Bad things are afoot in Tibbehah County, Mississippi, the territory of retired Army Ranger, Sheriff Quinn Colson. When a white trash methhead Gina Byrd turns up murdered and dismembered, the law and about everyone else in Tibbehah County assume her hell-raising sixteen-year-old daughter Tanya Jane “TJ” Byrd and her thieving boyfriend Ladarius McCade are the guilty parties. But despite some incriminating evidence found at the Byrd homestead, Sheriff Quinn Colson remains unconvinced the teenagers are guilty. Before Colson can get a handle on the investigation, TJ along with her little brother John Wesley, Ladarius, and her best friend Holly Harkins go on the run. After all, who will believe they are innocent? The “Byrd gang” meets up with another troubled teenager on the road, Chastity Bloodgood. She insists on joining them and comes up with a scheme to help TJ and Ladarius prove their innocence. But Chastity only leads them into deeper trouble than they are already in. Once Sheriff Colson figures out a local small-time crook, Chester Pratt, is somehow responsible for Gina Byrd’s murder, he must not only solve the crime but save a bunch of troubled teenagers before they get themselves killed. The Heathens has everything you could ask for in a crime thriller set in Dixieland—a bent lawman, rednecks, a passel of petty crooks, a couple of murdering backwoods characters almost straight out of Deliverance, and a rough-edged female U.S. Marshal who cusses like a sailor. There is even a side trip to the Big Easy during Mardi Gras. It’s an entertaining deep-fried thriller perfect for readers who enjoy crime tales set in the deep south.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purposes of this review.