Atkins, Pierce weave tales in familiar Mississippi scenes

Introductions make for common ground in two new fiction books, one by veteran Oxford writer Ace Atkins and the other by newcomer, Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Randy Pierce.
They also share stories impacted by death and territory familiar to both authors.
Atkins brings us his ninth novel, “The Ranger,” which introduces Quinn Colson, an Army Ranger back home in Northeast Mississippi from Afghanistan.
He’s come to town after the suicide death of his beloved uncle, the county’s sheriff. He wonders, with local whispers, whether it’s really a murder.
Atkins introduces Colson as the protagonist for a series of books, as he did so successfully with New Orleans private eye Nick Travers, who bore a striking resemblance to the author.
Like the Travers books, so rich in visual detail, “The Ranger” takes readers to the vivid underbelly of a corrupt Mississippi county, its web of criminal activity and Colson’s inescapable involvement in a mystery.
Pierce introduces himself as a novelist in “Pain Unforgiven,” a simple tale about a 40-something Atlanta lawyer called back to his Greene County upbringing by the impending death of a childhood friend.
As his protagonist, Grant Hicks, forces himself back home, he fights to come to terms with his deep-seated emotions for the place, which cursed his friend with wrongful imprisonment and doomed his own father to suicide.
Both books take us on the backroads of their Mississippi regions. Towns and places are familiar. Others are fictional but sometimes recognizable by the people who’ve traveled those byways.
Their character types also are familiar with few surprises. Black is black and white is white.
For Atkins, the bad guys are really bad. They present an evil well deserving of any punishment.
Pierce meets out more measured verdicts for his villains, but the effect should meet most readers’ definition of justice.
Atkins’ relationships in “The Ranger” are less defined, but that’s because his story line for future books likely will take care of that.
Pierce’s plot is predictable but nonetheless satisfying for readers who do not want ambiguity.
While his style is certainly less polished than Atkins’, Pierce gets congratulations for his first book.
As for Atkins, his readers no doubt will be looking forward to more of Quinn Colson.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal