About Natchez Burning• Paperback: 816 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 4, 2015)
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles comes the first novel in his Natchez Burning trilogy—which also includes The Bone Tree and the upcoming Mississippi Blood—an epic trilogy that interweaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present in a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern lawyer and former prosecutor Penn Cage. Raised in the southern splendor of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows of duty from his father, Dr. Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor has been accused of murdering the African American nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the 1960s. Once a crusading prosecutor, Penn is determined to save his father, but Tom, stubbornly invoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses even to speak in his own defense. Penn's quest for the truth sends him deep into his father's past, where a sexually charged secret lies. More chilling, this long-buried sin is only one thread in a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the most powerful men in the state. Aided by a dedicated reporter privy to Natchez's oldest secrets and by his fiancée, Caitlin Masters, Penn uncovers a trail of corruption and brutality that places his family squarely in the Double Eagles' crosshairs. With every step costing blood and faith, Penn is forced to confront the most wrenching dilemma of his life: Does a man of honor choose his father or the truth?
About Greg IlesGreg Iles spent most of his youth in Natchez, Mississippi. His first novel, Spandau Phoenix, was the first of thirteen New York Times bestsellers, and his new trilogy continues the story of Penn Cage, protagonist of The Quiet Game, Turning Angel, and #1 New York Times bestseller The Devil’s Punchbowl. Iles’s novels have been made into films and published in more than thirty-five countries. He lives in Natchez with his wife and has two children. Find out more about Greg at his website, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook.
First of all, I need to begin my review with a disclaimer: I have read most of Greg Iles' books (I'm a huge fan) and all of his books with Penn Cage as the protagonist. Penn is one of my favorite characters in Southern fiction, and The Quiet Game is one of my favorite books. Turning Angel is the next book about Penn, and I found it deeply disturbing. The third book is The Devil's Punchbowl, and I couldn't put that one down. These novels are stand alone books: Although it might be helpful to read all three it isn't necessary in order to understand the plot. I'm hoping that the Natchez Burning Trilogy is a true series because I have so many unanswered questions after having read the first installment.
Natchez Burning is based on civil rights cold cases, and the plot flips back and forth between the mid-nineteen sixties and the time shortly after Hurricane Katrina: both horrific times in this part of the South's history. Iles is a talented writer, and his characters are very well drawn. The problem I had with this book is the length, too many complicated plot lines, and too many repetitive descriptions. For example, Southern Baptists are blamed for virtually all the sins in the South during the sixties: Iles tells us this three times before page 100. A plot point that happened in the sixties is witnessed by the reader in flashback, recounted in the time after Katrina, then retold. Again. There is a definite issue with the editing. If the dastardly Baptists aren't raising hell, then surely it's the conservatives who've caused the rest of the problems. This book sometimes reads like an essay written by a self-righteous liberal who's forgotten the true villains in the South during the civil rights struggle: the Southern Democrats.
Iles also likes to push boundaries in his writing, and there are several very disturbing scenes in this novel. Very explicit sex scenes are followed by horrific violence and torture. I was also disappointed in some of the language Penn and Caitlin use because it seems totally out of character for them.
The ending's loose ends and seemingly rushed conclusion I'm trying to overlook because I know that there are two other books in the trilogy. Maybe the long wait for this book and the love I have for Penn Cage and his father raised my expectations unreasonably high. Overall, I am disappointed in this first installment, and I give it three out of five stars simply because I have hope that the other two installments will be better edited.
If you want to read a Penn Cage novel, please do not start with this trilogy. Read the original three first! They are fantastic.
Disclosure: I received a paperback copy of Natchez Burning from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair review.