Ex-Army Ranger Quinn Colson is the newly-elected sheriff of Tibbehah County, Mississippi. A no-nonsense lawman with a long history in the county, he has pared his staff down to a trusted few after years of department corruption under the former sheriff. His chief deputy is Lillie Virgil, a substantial woman with whom Colson shares a mutual attraction, though both are careful to stay on the safe side of any emotional entanglements.
Though the plot is driven by a massive gun-smuggling operation between locals and a Mexican gang moving into the Deep South, Quinn is equally passionate about locating a pair of criminals engaged in child trafficking. Morbidly obese Janet Jones and her Mexican husband, Ramon, have been moving children on the black market at great profit and with no pesky paperwork. Acting on a tip, Colson and his deputy descend on a rural sprawl that is mired in filth. They first encounter on the property a puppy mill of starving animals living in their own excrement, that only the introduction to a rambling house of horrors with an empty nursery of thirteen cribs. The only evidence of this inhumane operation is the condition of a child delivered to the hospital emergency room, a child who dies soon after. Outraged and disgusted, Quinn is determined to locate the rest of the children and arrest the woman responsible for the foul treatment of children and animals.
Local personalities become persons of interest in the gun-smuggling case: Johnny Stagg, a larger-than-life character who seems to know everybody, and Donnie Varner, an ex-vet gun shop owner who was Quinnís companion on many shared bad boy adventures growing up. Colson has no use for Stagg and his ilk but canít help but have some affection for Donnie, given their mischievous history. When Donnie falls hard for the beautiful Luz at the center of the smuggling ring, he is willing to do anything to increase his opportunity to be alone with her, walking into the heart of a rough gang with ties to the Los Zetas and a sketchy relationship with a stone killer with a tattooed face. Donnie Varner loves the combination of danger and profit, especially with the added spice of hot sex with Luz.
Quinn makes a detour of his own in this regard: an impulsive romance with FBI Agent Dinah Brand, a red-haired beauty who lets herself be seduced but sheds her passion with ease when duty calls. Deputy Lillie doesnít miss any of Quinnís action, but the wily Dinah earns her respect in the field, so Colson escapes most of the told-you-soís he might have had to endure.
While the two cases are unexpectedly tied together, both are extremely difficult to pin down in a succession of near-misses that leave Quinn increasingly frustrated. Not to worry. A reckoning is on the horizon, with plenty of plot twists and bloodshed in a showdown of betrayal, desperation and deadly adversaries. All things considered, Quinn Colson hasnít had much time to miss his ten years as a US Army Ranger. His home turf provides plenty of illegal activity and personal drama to keep him occupied indefinitely. Atkinsí protagonist makes a great transition from one type of action thriller to another, not missing a beat.