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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.
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.