Greg Iles - Natchez Burning
"...if you haven't read Iles before, you should seriously sort that out. Like, now."
Penn Cage is facing a son's worst nightmare - having his father stand accused of murder. Worse, each effort to defend Dr Tom Cage unearths new, shocking secrets, leaving Penn to question whether he ever really knew his father at all.
At issue is the murder of Viola Turner, once Tom Cage's nurse, before being transferred to Chicago and now back in Natchez, a corpse in her sister's house. What was the relationship between Tom, Viola, and the 'Double Eagle Club', an ultra-violent group of hardened men who considered themselves smarter, tougher, and more elite than their peers in the FBI-infiltrated Ku Klux Klan?
In Natchez, where the past is never truly 'past', long-buried secrets turn lethal when exposed to the light of day. For Penn Cage, the cost of solving this case will be no exception.
It's so pleasing to see Mr Iles back following a near fatal car crash in 2011 – and in top form. This man tells a fantastic story and if you haven't read Iles before, you should seriously sort that out. Like, now.
We are in present day Natchez which is south of the Mississippi and the sins of the past are about the crash down on a few of the locals. The book was inspired by a series of unsolved race murders in this part of the USA during the 1960's and that harsh history is brought to life in this fascinating and utterly consuming novel. It's a bit of an epic at 788 pages, but I happily lost a Saturday and a Sunday to it.
It is full of memorable, larger than life characters on both sides of the good/evil divide. Open the first page and what unfolds is a hugely involving story where Iles bravely blends fact and fiction to great effect and under his direction the past bleeds into the present with terrifying results.
The author's sense of time and place and of the dramatic is second to none. And I quite honestly couldn't put it down and when I had to, you know, sleep and stuff, this book haunted me. My only complaint at the end was that there were some clear areas still to be addressed and it was only when I went online that I discovered this was the first part in what is to be a trilogy. Marketing people take note, some indication on the jacket would have helped curb that temporary feeling of disappointment. The next book, 'The Bone Tree' will be released in April 2015. Put a note in your diary, people!
Reviewed by: M.M