Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
Published: Hardcover April 2014, paperback August 2015 by William Morrow
Source: I have two copies - the hardcover borrowed from my parents and a paperback copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
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?
Natchez Burning is the first in a trilogy of books; the final book in the trilogy will be published in March. When I was offered the chance to get first shot at that book by reading and reviewing the first two books in the trilogy in September, I didn't hesitate. My parents are fans of Iles and have particularly enjoyed Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree (the next book in the series); I knew how much they'd love to get their hands on the new book early and because I love them so much, I was willing to reading 1600 pages to make that happen. Because that's just what kind of daughter I am!
I can certainly understand why my parents enjoyed this book - it is a roller coaster of a read, it is chock full of interesting (and questionable!) characters, and it is mired in the history of the South. We've traveled in the South, we've been to Natchez. I was not yet out of high school when we were there but, for my parents, I'm sure it was easy to picture the area. And for history buffs and people who have always stayed well-informed about the goings on in the world, the parts of the book set in the past must have brought back vivid reminders of the news they saw in the 1960's.
Iles does not pull any punches when it comes to the brutality in this book and there is a lot of it. As a reader, I have mixed feelings about that. Given that Iles clearly wants readers to understand this piece of his city's past, I accept that he feels it's essential for readers to have a very clear picture of the horrendous tortures that were carried out in the past. But it's a very tough read made all the more tough by the violence that continues into the present day parts of the story. I understood that Iles wanted me to know that powerful people and those filled with hate are willing to go to any lengths to achieve their goals. I just wasn't convinced I needed all of the details. Also, let's face it, I prefer to live in my happy little shell sometimes and it's hard for me to imagine that there are people out there willing to torture others when a gunshot would do the trick.
In the end, though, the question became which is scarier - a man filled with hate or a man who is so powerful that he will stop at nothing to get what he wants and keep what he has?
I can't see me pitching this to my book club (it is too long and too violent) but I can see where it would make an interesting book club choice given all of the themes Iles addresses. Racism, infidelity, the bond between friends, euthanasia, corruption, family bonds, trust issues, politics and the legal system, power struggles, forbidden love, and the truths parents may keep from their children. I enjoyed all of that a lot which made it well worth skipping over that parts that were too tough for me to read.
Of course, all of that is just my opinion; if you'd like more opinions, check out the full tour. Thanks to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me on the tour! I'm looking forward to reading The Bone Tree soon!
Greg 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.