Atkins builds his Tibbehah Country, Mississippi, novels around an assortment of eccentric characters, where soon-to-be-ex-Sheriff of Jericho Quinn Colson is preparing to pass his badge to successor Rusty Wise, formerly an insurance man. But as Christmas celebrations trickle into a big New Year’s finale,
mayhem is afoot. There’s bad blood brewing between Mickey Hall and his ex-father-in-law, Larry Cobb, the local lumber baron.
The volatile relationship between Mickey and Cobb’s daughter, Tanya, who now runs a tanning salon/coffee bar, still ignites sufficient sexual tension to persuade her to spend New Year’s with Mickey on an overnight date out of town.
While Mickey is getting ready for his getaway with Tonya, Johnny Stagg, the local crime boss, is tending to the business at hand at his strip club--and the profitable peripheral activities that go with such a place. Stagg always manages to keep his fingers on the pulse of everything going on in the county, from politics to criminal enterprise.
He is not above making side deals with the wily Cobb, especially since the massive damage of a devastating tornado and the windfall of money that has followed. Stagg and Cobb not only share a history of lucrative deals but have plans for a substantial piece of the new revenue on tap, county and state agencies flush with cash and ripe for picking. There’s money to be made for smart men with the right political contacts.
His current job soon to end, Colson, a former US Army Ranger and Afghan vet, has not yet decided what to do when newly-elected Rusty Wise takes over. But he is determined, with the assistance of loyal deputy Lillie Virgil, to take his drug-addled sister, Caddy, away from the slum she’s inhabited since a binge after the death of her born-again boyfriend. Finally managing some sobriety, Caddy fell hard and fast after the death, unable to care for her son, Jason, currently with Quinn’s mother at her farm. Quinn and Caddy share a dark history born of a traumatic childhood incident that both binds and scars them. There are other factors in Quinn’s private life to consider besides Caddy: the return of his father, Jason, Sr., a former Holly wood stuntman who abandoned the family years before, now forging an uneasy peace with those he left behind; and Anna Lee Stevens, Quinn’s high school sweetheart, married, with a young daughter. The couple seems incapable of staying away from one another, a bad habit neither can break. Such complications are business as usual for Colson Quinn, happy to be back in familiar territory: “I’ve always recognized the human circus and all the wonderful creeps you meet along the way to Oz.”
Just as the new sheriff take office, a scheme for revenge turns into a fiasco.
Outsider Uncle PeeWee and his nephew, Chase, fail to comprehend the subtleties of local crime and open a Pandora’s Box of violence when a Jericho police officer is shot while on duty. A simple plan goes awry, potentially exposing the carefully kept secrets of local criminals, but more seriously, the chicanery of men in high places with no tolerance for buffoonery. The reliable deputy Lillie Virgil straddles an impossible conundrum whether to follow Colson out or stay with the new sheriff, but events conspire to put her at the head of a drama with Quinn’s life at stake. Atkins serves up a seven-course meal spiced with colorful personalities and cold-hearted killers, a heady mixture of personal problems adding a piquant flavor only found in folks with deep ties to one another. Unfortunately, the situation in Tibbehah Country is only in the early stages of upheaval. Quinn and Lillie should probably stay.