There’s nothing quite like a good crime thriller to keep you reading late into the night: with compulsively readable writing, action-packed plots, and an engaging cast of characters. Ace Atkins writes crime thrillers with all these can’t-miss elements, as well as his signature depth and gritty realism: a product of his past career as a crime reporter.
Ace Atkins has done many things and he’s done them all well, but writing crime fiction is (arguably) what he does best. He was born in Alabama, worked as a crime reporter in Florida, and now resides in Mississippi where he does most of his writing.
As a novelist, he is best known for his eleven-book Quinn Colson series, a collection of crime thrillers that are based in Mississippi and revolve around the eponymous hero Quinn Colson. The series is a gritty, character-driven look at crime and power in the south.
If you’re more drawn to stories inspired by true crime, Ace Atkins’s standalone crime classics are a great place to start. Pulling inspiration and research from his work as a crime reporter, Ace Atkins has penned four vivid historical fictions to date: White Shadow (2006), Wicked City (2008), Devil’s Garden (2009), and Infamous (2010).
With more than twenty can’t-miss works of fiction to his name, including three different series and four standalones, knowing where to start can seem like a daunting task. This list of Ace Atkins books in order, divided up chronologically and per series, will help you find the right place to start. Let the reading commence!
Ace Atkins’s Standalone Crime Classics
White Shadow (2006)
White Shadow is a gripping historical crime novel that’s based on a true story — Ace Atkins earned his Pulitzer nomination for a feature series investigating the crime that inspired this book.
It’s 1955 in Tampa, Florida, and the city is thrumming with violent energy: Sicilian and Cuban gangsters, cigar factories, and sordid clubs line the streets. Retired mob boss Charlie Wall has just been murdered in his home, and the shocking effects of his death reverberate through local communities of the rich and poor alike. White Shadow inspects the aftermath of Wall’s murder and the secrets that a man of such criminal power took with him to the grave.
You can purchase White Shadow here, and prepare to be hooked by one of Ace Atkins’s most infamous works.
Wicked City (2008)
Ace Atkins returns with another thrilling crime read that’s based on a true story, this time in the gritty form of Wicked City.
It’s the spring of 1954 in Phenix City, Alabama, and a crime-fighting attorney has just been shot and killed in an alleyway. A small but determined group of men meet in secret — they’ve had enough of the town’s grisly violence — and they set out to make a change.
You can buy Wicked City here, and you’re sure to be enthralled by this raw and realistic historical page-turner.
Devil’s Garden (2009)
Hailed by many as an instant noir crime classic, Devil’s Garden is a must-read historical retelling of one of America’s most infamous criminal trials.
It’s 1921 in the heart of San Francisco, and a wild party is underway at Roscoe Arbuckle’s glitzy hotel suite, but the party turns sour when actress Virginia Rappe ends up dead. The D.A. claims that Arbuckle himself killed her, and cries for a guilty verdict are ringing out across the country.
Arbuckle’s defense team hires an agent named Dashiell Hammett to investigate what really happened at the party — and what he discovers is going to change his life permanently.
Ace Atkins has done it again with Infamous, a quality historical thriller that turns real-life crime into shockingly fast-paced reading material.
It’s July of 1933 in Oklahoma, and everything’s about to change for the notorious gangster Machine Gun Kelly. He staged a kidnapping-for-ransom of an oilman, but things get messy when his femme fatale wife, Kathryn Kelly, starts playing both sides for her benefit.
You can buy Infamous here, and prepare to be blown away by Atkins’s historically rich writing that’s paired with his signature page-turning suspense.
Ace Atkins’s Quinn Colson Series In Order
The Ranger (2011)
Ace Atkins has created a rugged, fictional hero that you’ll love rooting for in Quinn Colson, and The Ranger is the character’s exhilarating, action-packed debut.
After years spent at war, Army Ranger Quinn Colson returns to his hometown in the rough hills of Northeast Mississippi and is greeted with tragedy. His uncle, who worked for years as the county sheriff, is dead, and his death has been ruled a suicide. But many in the town are whispering their true suspicion — that Colson’s uncle was murdered.
Colson sets out to discover the truth surrounding his uncle’s death, and in a town that’s been overrun by meth runners and violent criminals, this may be his most dangerous undertaking yet.
You can purchase The Ranger here, and you’re likely to have found a new favorite crime series in this fast-moving and resilient must-read.
The Lost Ones (2012)
Quinn Colson returns in The Lost Ones, a story that’s as deeply thought-provoking as it is thrilling.
Back in Mississippi’s Tibbehah County, Quinn Colson investigates a human trafficking case with connections to a drug cartel in Texas, while his personal life is complicated by the pregnancy of an old flame and the return of his now-sober sister.
You can buy The Lost Ones here, and enjoy the second installation in the riveting Quinn Colson series.
The Broken Places (2013)
Ace Atkins continues his bestselling Quinn Colson series with The Broken Places, a must-read that’s just as absorbing as the first two.
A pardoned killer by the name of Jamey Dixon just returned to town, and even worse, he gets tangled up with Colson’s sister. Two dangerous convicts escape jail to find Dixon — they think he’s after money that they hid — and a tornado wreaks havoc, making the roads impassable. Looks like Colson has his work set out for him.
You can purchase The Broken Places, and prepare for another thrilling addition to the series.
The Forsaken (2014)
The Forsaken is the fourth book in the Quinn Colson series and proves to be the most compelling installation yet.
Thirty-six years prior, a black homeless man was accused of rape and murder and was lynched by a self-appointed posse in town. When information gets out that clears the man who was lynched of these crimes, Quinn Colson sets out to investigate who is really responsible for what happened — and most importantly, why is everybody hiding it?
You can buy The Forsaken here, and you’re sure to enjoy this gripping continuation of the bestselling series.
The Redeemers (2015)
The fifth installation in the Quinn Colson series, The Redeemers, is as intriguing and suspenseful as its four predecessors.
Quinn Colson is out of a job, but he’s not going to move on until he’s shut down Johnny Stagg’s criminal operations once and for all. When a deputy gets shot and a precious safe is stolen, Colson’s summer plans get a little more complicated.
You can purchase The Redeemers here, and prepare for a heroic and unputdownable story that you won’t want to miss.
The Innocents (2016)
The Innocents is the sixth installation in the Quinn Colson series, and Atkins does not disappoint with this follow-up.
Quinn Colson puts his badge back on for a harrowing case: a former high school cheerleader is found engulfed in flames, and the path to answers is one of Colson’s most dangerous and close-to-home journeys yet.
You can buy The Innocents here, and you’re bound to be hooked in no time.
The Fallen (2017)
The Fallen is the fan-favorite seventh book in Atkins’s rollicking Quinn Colson series.
A string of bank robberies starts reminding Quinn Colson of the raids he underwent as an Army Ranger — so much so that he begins suspecting that these robbers are former rangers like himself. And what a disaster that would be.
You can purchase The Fallen here, and prepare to be reading late into the night to finish this thrilling novel!
The Sinners (2018)
The adventure continues in The Sinners, the eighth installation in the beloved Quinn Colson series.
Quinn Colson is getting married! Nothing could ruin his mood — nothing but the patriarch of a drug-dealing clan being released from prison and coming after Colson himself.
You can buy The Sinners here, and enjoy this classic Colson crime thriller with an Old-West twist.
The Shameless (2019)
Quinn Colson returns once more in The Shameless, the ninth book in a series that’s as well-written as it is character-driven.
Twenty years ago, teenage Brandon Taylor tragically ended his life — or at least, so says the official report. But when two reporters show up on Colson’s doorstep asking questions like “where are the missing files?” he wants to help find answers, too.
You can purchase The Shameless here, and prepare for a twisting-and-turning thriller that you won’t be able to put down.
The Revelators (2020)
Fans of Ace Atkins’s brilliant Quinn Colson series will be blown away by the tenth book, The Revelators — a bold and action-packed continuation of what came before.
Shot up and left for dead, Quinn Colson refuses to let go of this direct attack on his life — especially not when the person behind the attacks was ordered by the newly elected Governor Vardaman himself. Colson needs all the help he can get, and he recruits friends near and far for help bringing down the corrupt Governor Vardaman.
With crime on the rise and Colson’s nephew gone missing, this is shaping up to be one of his most high-stakes adventures yet.
You can buy The Revelators here, and you’re sure to be impressed by this unflinching tenth installation.
The Heathens (2021)
The Heathens is the latest and greatest addition to the legendary Quinn Colson series, being the eleventh book to feature Colson as a character.
Quinn Colson got into a lot of trouble as a kid — which is why he believes juvenile delinquent TJ Byrd when she insists that she had nothing to do with her mother’s death. But when it’s clear that TJ is likely to be blamed for the killing, she goes on the run, along with two friends and her nine-year-old brother.
While the runaway teens are being chased down by Colson’s former deputy, Lillie Virgil, Colson is busy trying to find out who is framing TJ for her mother’s death — and why?
You can purchase The Heathens here, and prepare for a climactic crime fiction read that you’ll be thinking about for days to come.
Ace Atkins’s Nick Travers Series In Order
Crossroad Blues (1998)
Ace Atkins’s Crossroad Blues is a series debut that’s brimming with mystery, music, and ripe entertainment.
Crossroad Blues introduces the character of Nick Travers, a blues historian and professor with a knack for finding trouble at every turn. Nick sets out on a search for lost blues recordings from the 1930s, but when one of his colleagues goes missing he discovers that the stakes might be higher than he’d ever dreamed of.
You can buy Crossroad Blues here, and prepare for a kitschy, niche crime read that’s as purely entertaining as it is well-written.
Leavin’ Trunk Blues (2000)
Leavin’ Trunk Blues is a must-read follow-up to Atkins’s Crossroad Blues, and it’s every bit as rich in entertainment as its predecessor.
Nick Travers returns to the dangerous side of his profession when he sets up an interview with Ruby Walker, an esteemed blues singer who was convicted of murdering her producer Billy Lyons. But it isn’t long before Nick learns that there are people still working hard to keep the truth about Lyons’s death from getting out — and he’s about to get in their way.
You can purchase Leavin’ Trunk Blues here, and you’re sure to enjoy this provocative crime read from beginning to end.
Dark End of the Street (2002)
Equal parts thrilling and thought-provoking, Dark End of the Street is the third installation in Atkins’s atmospheric Nick Travers series.
Nick Travers hits the road in Dark End of the Street — he’s searching for Clyde James, a talented soul singer who went missing after the murder of his wife and dear friend. During Travers’s search, he’s immersed in a scene of corrupt casino businesses, Dixie mafia members, and a spiritually obsessive killer.
You can buy Dark End of the Street here, and prepare to enjoy every second of this fascinating read.
Dirty South (2004)
Dirty South is the fourth book in the historically rich Nick Travers series, and fans of the series will be deeply entertained per usual.
When an old friend asks Nick Travers for help tracking down money that was stolen from a rap prodigy, Nick gladly accepts the offer. Nick and the fifteen-year-old rap prodigy set out to track down the thieves who pulled off the con — but this is a price that the criminals are willing to kill for.
You can purchase Dirty South here, and this hard-boiled mystery read is full of thrills and chills to keep you hooked.
Last Fair Deal Gone Down (2012)
Last Fair Deal Gone Down is a long-forgotten short story featuring the iconic character of Nick Travers. Set in a New Orleans blues bar, this story is Nick Travers at his best — and it won Ace Atkins an Edgar Award nomination in 2008.
You can buy Last Fair Deal Gone Down here, and prepare to be charmed by this quick and cunning return to a beloved character.
Ace Atkins’s Spenser Series Contributions In Order
When Robert B. Parker, the creator of the well-loved Spenser series, passed away unexpectedly, Ace Atkins was chosen to continue the series for him. The following books are Atkins’s contributions to this popular series of crime thrillers.
- Lullaby (2012)
- Wonderland (2013)
- Cheap Shot (2014)
- Kickback (2015)
- Slow Burn (2016)
- Little White Lies (2017)
- Old Black Magic (2018)
- Angel Eyes (2019)
- Someone to Watch Over Me (2021)
- Bye Bye Baby (2022)
Ace Atkins Book FAQ
How many Ace Atkins books are there?
Ace Atkins has published thirty books to date.
Does Ace Atkins write books in series?
Yes, Ace Atkins has written two popular series of books, and he is also writing the continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series.
How many Spenser novels have Ace Atkins written?
Ace Atkins has written ten Spenser novels, and the correct order to read them is listed above.
What are the latest Spenser novels?
Someone to Watch Over Me and Bye Bye Baby are the two most recent novels in the Spenser series.
What genre does Ace Atkins write?
Ace Atkins writes novels in the crime fiction, crime thriller, and mystery genres.
Is Ace Atkins still writing Spenser novels?
Yes. Ace Atkins was picked by Robert B. Parker Estate nearly a decade ago to continue the Spenser series and still continues to write Spenser novels.