Media Type: Print Book
Title: Natchez Burning
*Series: Penn Cage #4
Author: Greg Iles
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: Paperback; 816
Release Date: Reprint Edition; August 4, 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours / William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Mystery / Crime Thriller
HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who enjoy hard hitting, well fleshed out crime dramas with a hefty helping of historical background.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated novel yet—Natchez Burning—the first installment in an epic trilogy that interweaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present in a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern lawyer and former prosecutor Penn Cage
Growing up in the rural Southern hamlet of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned everything he knows about honor and duty from his father, Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor is accused of murdering Viola Turner, the beautiful nurse with whom he worked in the early 1960s. A fighter who has always stood for justice, Penn is determined to save his father.
The quest for answers sends Penn deep into the past—into the heart of a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the Double Eagles, a vicious KKK crew headed by one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state. Now Penn must follow a bloody trail that stretches back forty years, to one undeniable fact: no one—black or white, young or old, brave or not—is ever truly safe.
As you might have noticed, this is actually the fourth book in a series. Natchez Burning is, however, the beginning of a brand new story arc that readers can start at. I came into this story knowing nothing about Penn Cage and his family. What I left with? Well, I can absolutely attest to the fact that Greg Iles has mastered the art of the tie in. With no information dumps, and virtually no flashbacks, I quickly came up to speed with Penn, his family, and Natchez as a whole. It felt like home after only a few chapters, and the story that was spun for me has me extremely eager to see what comes next.
I admit that Natchez Burning had me a little wary at the beginning. This book is a tome. At 816 pages in paperback, it's definitely not a light read. Somehow though, Iles manages to use up every bit of that page count without a second of down time. Every sentence is perfectly placed. Each moment, each event, expertly situated to make this book read at a breakneck pace throughout the entire story. Suffice it to say, I was highly impressed. I was worried that this book would be a chore. Afraid that I might have to read through pages of police procedures and information dumps. That wasn't so, I'm happy to report. While this definitely took me time to finish, it was worth every page.
Penn Cage is one of those characters that you can't help but root for. His heart is huge, his motives pure, and he's willing to throw himself into any kind of terrible situation that comes his way if it means protecting his family and his town. It's tough not to fall for him. I figured out very quickly that Iles knew this, because he threw Penn into the fire and dragged him through hell and back. I found myself gripping the pages, white knuckled, as Penn and those he cared about were put into yet another terrifying encounter. This book has it all. Murders, drug deals, mafia bosses, and the types of "bad guys" who make your skin crawl because they're so wholly evil. Which, in truth, is true of every personality that Iles pens into this book. Each character is treated lovingly, and fully developed. Which means the reader is allowed to love, and to hate, as the case calls for. These are real people, and it makes the story all the more compulsively readable.
If I had one small gripe it would be that, ironically, the ending felt a little rushed. I know that it seems ridiculous coming from a person who as worried about reading 800+ pages originally. Truth be told though, the climax was built up so well that I couldn't wait to see what happened. Which is probably why the ending felt a little quick, and the cliffhanger at the end left me breathless. Luckily, I know that there are more books in this series. So I'll have my hands on the next one very soon. This series is well worth your time! Don't be afraid to start with Natchez Burning.
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.