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When I reviewed Ace Atkins' first Quinn Colson novel, The Ranger, I described it as the author taking everything he loved from film and fiction and paying tribute in one book. With his latest, Don't Let The Devil Ride, he crammed all that in again with things he forgot the first time and some others he found out about since. He brings it all in to create a unique grab bag of genre writing that breathes and jumps.

At the center of this wild and wooly yarn is Addison McKeller, an upper-middle class housewife in 2010 Memphis, Tennessee. Her husband, Dean, has yet to return from a business trip from London without any word. This has happened before, but for not this many days. When she goes down to his office, she learns it no longer exists.

Her father puts her in touch with Porter Hayes, a black private detective with a legendary past. With his help, Addison, begins to uncover her husband's dual life. Over in The Middle East, an arms broker. Gaultier, sets up a deal involving a mysterious Peter Collinson. Addison, Porter, Gaultier, and Collinson steadily get brought together with the involvement of a shipment of artifacts, a one armed tough, a Russian mobster with cowboy dreams, and an former sixties starlet cashing in on her connection to Elvis. It all adds up to an international thriller that primarily takes place in Memphis.

Ace has spent the last decade building his series with southern hero Quinn Colson as well as acting as a keeper of the flame with Robert B. Parker's detective Spenser. Each book in both series created history to adhere to for the next. With Don't Let The Devil Ride, you feel the joy the writer has has on working off a completely blank slate, taking the spy thriller template and applying elements from domestic suspense, P.I, novels, blaxploitation, satire, and other and fiction I probably didn't pick up on. You even have Ace's admiration for Burt Reynolds. One could easily cast the star from his seventies era as the charming and dangerous Peter Collinson.

A novel with this many players and influences is ripe to go off the rails, but Ace keeps it moving with the puzzle pieces smoothly snapping into place without a noticeable hiccup or plot hole. He pulls it off by keeping it all connected to the characters. Another Ace Atkins influence is Elmore Leonard and he keeps the story in the hands of his colorful cast that pop off the page. Every twist and turn occurs due to their actions or decisions instead of plot devices. They also provide fun dialogue and humor as well the right amount of poignancy. I hope Ace finds a way to bring Porter Hayes back, even if it's to his amazing past.

Don't Let The Devil Ride demonstrates how a master of the craft uses his influences to make a story of his own. It is a great mix of suspense, action, and lively dialogue. all delivered in Ace Atkin's southern charm. I've mentioned so many kinds of fiction that play into his book, but you only need to know one type- damn entertaining.


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