Digital Media Center
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Gate 61
920 Paul Bryant Drive
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0370
(800) 654-4262

© 2022 Alabama Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
WAPR is off the air. Crews are investigating. We apologize for the inconvenience.

The Broken Places: A Quinn Colson Novel and Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland


“The Broken Places: A Quinn Colson Novel”    

Author: Ace Atkins

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 358

Price: $26.95 (Cloth)


“Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland”

Author: Ace Atkins

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Price: $26.95

Pages: 306

Ace Atkins, Auburn graduate, has just published simultaneously, his own twelfth novel, “The Broken Places,” set in Mississippi, and his second Robert B. Parker Spenser novel, “Wonderland,” set of course in Boston.        


Both are G. P. Putnam books and even look alike, printed and bound the same, and each includes as endpapers maps to help the reader follow the action. The Boston map is real, except for Spenser’s apartment and office, and the Mississippi map of Tibbehah County is as real as Faulkner’s map of Yoknapatawpha. That is to say, pretty real.

In this third Quinn Colson novel the hero, who has returned to Jericho, Mississippi, after fifteen years in the Army Rangers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, continues as sheriff, fighting crime, and there is lots of it.

In the previous novels there were gun runners, meth labs, kidnappers, prostitutes, gambling, the full rural Eden.

“Broken Places” opens with a complicated and bloody escape from Parchman Prison. The convicts—Esau Davis, 6’ 4” with bright red hair, and Joseph Magee, called Bones, one black, one white— are monsters, rapists, murderers. There are descriptions of conditions in Parchman that would make the reader call out for prison reform, but you still would not want these men to get out, ever.

Esau and Bones escape initially on horseback and make their way to Jericho where they mean to pick up the loot from an armored car robbery, still in the car with the two dead guards at the bottom of a country pond.

They hook up with Esau’s girlfriend Becky and their escape accomplice, Dickie, and hole up in a luxurious hunting lodge owned by Senator Vardaman. We are told he uses it to entertain girlfriends. The escapees drink Glenfiddich and swim in the pool.

(Faulkner fans love it that Atkins’s fiction is laced with homage.)

The plan is to retrieve the money from the armored car with the aid of Jamey Dixon, a convicted killer, now pardoned, and a preacher running a church called The River in a barn. Dixon is also the boyfriend of Caddy Colson, Quinn’s wayward sister. Sheriff Colson hates that and believes Dixon is an Elmer Gantry–type con man.

This novel takes a number of crafty turns and soon involves the local evil crime boss Johnny Stagg. There is mayhem, kidnapping, extortion and, if human destructiveness were not enough, the whole town is blown up by a tornado.

Atkins does not spare the horses. This is a prison escape-action novel and it reads so fast if you did read it on the beach you would get very little sand in it.

“Wonderland” is also fully accomplished. Spenser, P.I., gets involved with killings connected to the possible opening of a gambling casino in the Boston area at an abandoned amusement park, Wonderland. Spenser’s sidekick, the fearsome Hawk, has been temporarily replaced by the equally fearsome Zebulon Sixkill, a Cree Indian. Clues lead them to the Massachusetts state legislature, Las Vegas gambling interests and local organized crime, which does NOT want legal gambling in Boston.

Atkins has mastered the speech patterns of Spenser so well the only complaint one could make, reading these two books together is that Sheriff Colson, native Mississippian, is starting to talk a little like Bostonian Spenser.

Don Noble , Ph. D. Chapel Hill, Prof of English, Emeritus, taught American literature at UA for 32 years. He has been the host of the APTV literary interview show "Bookmark" since 1988 and has broadcast a weekly book review for APR since November of 2001, so far about 850 reviews. Noble is the editor of four anthologies of Alabama fiction and the winner of the Alabama state prizes for literary scholarship, service to the humanities and the Governor's Arts Award.
News from Alabama Public Radio is a public service in association with the University of Alabama. We depend on your help to keep our programming on the air and online. Please consider supporting the news you rely on with a donation today. Every contribution, no matter the size, propels our vital coverage. Thank you.