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By Greg Iles
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 4/29/2014
Series: Penn Cage #4
Narrated by: David Ledoux
Length: 35 hrs and 53 mins
My Rating: 5 Stars +++
Wow! While listening to this gripping, intense thriller NATCHEZ BURNING (Penn Cage #4) audiobook—I continued to ask myself, “why haven’t I read more of by Greg Iles”? Immediately, I begin checking my WANT TO READ LIST for all Iles’ Penn Cage Books in the Trilogy, which I missed, plus others to get the full details of Tom and Penn.
Amazing and brilliant writing! I have only read one of Greg’s books, THIRD DEGREE, some years ago, and when I began reading all the rave reviews of NATCHEZ BURNING – knew I had to purchase the audiobook—Greg, nor the narrator, does not disappoint!
I would highly recommend the audiobook, as you definitely get your money’s worth with (35 hrs./ 53 minutes) in 5 downloads of pure adrenaline, heart pounding action and suspense (800 pages, if you choose different format). The narrator, David Ledoux, was superb, and found myself hanging on his every word!
Where to start. when reviewing such an epic novel, without giving any hints or spoilers. This book can be a standalone; however, I so look forward to reading the earlier books to find out more about these exciting, yet mysterious characters. And, oh will definitely pre-order #5 THE BONE TREE and #6 UNWRITTEN LAW in the Penn Cage series.
The author mentions: THE QUIET GAME, the novel in which Penn Cage first appeared, and which many readers believe is his best book. BLOOD MEMORY, was written before TURNING ANGEL, Penn’s father Tom Cage appears there in a supporting role; however, he recommends, BLOOD MEMORY after THE QUIET GAME, as appears you will appreciate Tom much more.
Penn Cage is a former prosecutor and Mayor of Natchez, Mississippi. The Penn Cage series “involves all the quintessentially Southern themes—family, racial violence, ‘miscegenation,’ honor, hypocrisy, and the quest for justice in an unfair society…”
The novel reminds me a little of FORTY ACRES by Dwayne Alexander Smith, coming out July 1, 2014 (which I had the opportunity of reading an advanced reading copy)-and highly recommend. Both FORTY ACRES (slavery) and NATCHEZ BURNING are definitely my votes for BEST BOOKS OF 2014, thus far. Both thrillers, page-turners, different twists with same racial violence involving southern hate crimes, dark secrets, politics, and powerful men seeking revenge.
Having read, Iles was involved in a horrific car crash in 2011 which resulted in a ruptured aorta, a medically induced coma and the partial amputation of one leg—can only imagine the long road back ---What a comeback – with a 5 Star Winner!
As Iles promised back in 2009, the hero is, once again, Penn Cage, the lawyer who first appeared in “The Quiet Game” (1999). A former prosecutor for the Houston district attorney’s office, Penn, along with his daughter, Annie, returned to his childhood home in Natchez, MS, following his wife’s death from cancer. He came hoping to find peace and a fresh start, but instead became embroiled in a series of violent investigations that illuminated the darker side of life in Natchez, past and present.
Determined to help restore the struggling city, Penn changed professions once again and ran successfully for mayor, the position he holds as this new novel begins.
A lot to take in, so you will need to buckle up, keep up with the characters, and the virtually everything that follows from beginning to end (as hang on for the ride of your life).
In 1968 there are murders of two black civil rights activists, Luther Davis and Jimmy Revels, and the brutal gang rape of Revels’ sister Viola. These and other atrocities were carried out by the Double Eagles, an ultra-violent splinter group of the Ku Klux Klan that plays an increasingly significant role in this saga.
The narrative begins in 2005, with Viola, who moved to Chicago, after the 1968 assault, is suffering from lung cancer and has returned to Natchez to die. When her death occurs under questionable circumstances, suspicion falls on Tom Cage, Penn’s father and a revered local physician who has served all levels of Natchez society for decades.
The widespread belief that Tom and Viola were once lovers lends substance to the suspicion that he was personally involved in her death. When Tom, racked by private guilt, refuses to defend himself, Penn initiates his own investigation, one that leads directly to the hidden, still hazardous secrets of 40 years before.
Among those who assist Penn in his quest for the truth are two dynamic journalists from different generations. Caitlin Masters, Penn’s fiancée, is a Pulitzer Prize winner whose need to pursue a breaking story frequently conflicts with Penn’s more personal agenda. Henry Sexton is a small-town reporter who has spent the bulk of his career gathering evidence on the unsolved crimes of the civil rights era. Henry is one of Iles’s most vivid, credible characters, and his obsessive search for dangerous truths provides the novel with both its wider historical context and its moral center.
There is so much to this novel, covering topics such as loyalty to one’s family versus loyalty to truth and justice, cost of professional ambition, and sexual relations between the races. More importantly, the pervasive impact of past events and ones refusing to remain buried. The quest for the truth sends Penn searching for answers back to the turbulent years of the civil rights movement. The plot weaves a story of conspiracy involving 5 K's, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan, called The Double Eagles and lastly, Katrina.
NATCHEZ BURNING is itself an embodiment of a famous statement by William Faulkner, a statement that has found its way into Iles’ novel: “The past is never dead; it’s not even past. If it were, there would be no grief or sorrow.”
Our nation’s hidden secrets and sins come front and center with one of the best--- Iles has come back from a near-fatal accident to produce his most searching and ambitious work to date. NATCHEZ BURNING obliterates the artificial distinction between genre and literary fiction with passion, grace and considerable style.
Greg Iles at his BEST – his faithful fans, as well as new readers, will welcome him back with open arms, with this incredible journey into the dark past which proves "Truth is rarely pure and never simple." Oscar Wilde!