Wednesday, May 14, 2014

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Natchez Burning by Greg Iles


An American writer at the height of his creative powers, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated book yet, and his first in five years—Natchez Burning, the first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage.

Raised in the historic southern splendor of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows of honor and duty from his father, Dr. Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor and pillar of the community has been accused of murdering Viola Turner, 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 to even 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 waiting to tear their family apart. More chilling, this long-buried sin is only a single thread in a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the wealthiest and 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?

Drenched in southern atmosphere, Natchez Burning marks the brilliant return of a genuine American master of suspense. Tense, disturbing, and filled with electrifying plot twists, this novel commences the most explosive and ambitious story Greg Iles has ever written.

Hardcover, 800 pages
Published April 29th 2014 by William Morrow (first published February 20th 2014)
ISBN 0062311077 (ISBN13: 9780062311078)

About the Author

Greg Iles was born in Germany in 1960. He grew up in Natchez, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1983. He was active in a band called "Frankly Scarlet", but quit after realizing that the touring lifestyle was not conducive with his family life. Once no longer busy with the band, he turned his attention to writing.

Greg's novels have been translated into various languages and are published in more than 20 countries. In addition to his popular novels, he wrote the original script for the movie 24 Hours (later renamed Trapped).

When not writing, Greg spends some of his time playing music. He's a member of "The Rock Bottom Remainders", which includes other authors (Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount, Jr., Matt Groening, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, and James McBride).

Greg still lives in Natchez, Mississippi, with his wife and two children.

Check out the author's website
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My Thoughts
Albert Norris sang a few bars of Howlin' Wolf's "Natchez Burnin'" to cover the sounds of the couple making love in the back of his shop.

This story takes place mainly in Natchez, Mississippi.
Historical House at Natchez Mississipi self made PRA from Wikicommons
Penn Cage is the mayor of Natchez, although he was previously a novelist and a practicing attorney. He is an honest and ethical man, and devoted to his family. He has taken on the role of mayor in the hopes of saving his hometown from corruption.

Penn’s father Dr. Tom Cage has been the town's well respected doctor for decades. He’s seen it all. And now he is being charged with the murder of his old nurse Viola. Tom and Viola worked together in the ‘60s, during the heat of the civil rights movement. Now she’s been found dead, and there is video footage of her death, leaving Dr. Cage charged with her murder.

Henry Sexton owns the local paper and has spent decades investigating the local branch of the Double Eagles, an off-shoot of the KKK. He's been driven to uncover the truth when no one else seemed to care, attempting to connect the Double Eagles to countless murders from the '60s, and leading back to one of the country's wealthiest men Brody Royal. Henry has often felt alone in his battle for justice, and his attempts to bring closure and validation to the surviving family members of murder victims.
“Where are the black reporters? I need all the help I can get. But it’s white men working these cases, almost exclusively. And I’m not sure why. Is it guilt, like you said? I’ll tell you this: when I read my list of black murder victims from the sixties, hardly a person in America recognizes a name. There’s something wrong with that, brother.”
I was very excited for the opportunity to read this book, as the subject matter is right up my alley. However I was unaware that this is #4 in the Penn Cage novels by Greg Iles. It's always a little disappointing to enter a series partway through, with the constant allusions to previous novels. There are characters that are reintroduced and mentions of past events. But this book stands on its own just fine. There was no need for me to have read previous editions in order to follow this one.

Penn is a very likable and believable character, as is his father Tom. Penn is engaged to Caitlin, who is a driven Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Sometimes her fierce competition to be the best and break the next story can bring her at odds with Penn, as she resents when he holds back information that she could use.

I found this story to be absorbing, if at times a little uncomfortable. The subject matter is often unsettling, but necessary. These types of stories are our history, particularly here in the south, and we mustn't forget our history, lest we repeat our mistakes. The KKK and other similar organizations are the most cowardly of all "activists". They perpetrate their actions cloaked in darkness and hoods and anonymity. They have a history of committing heinous crimes and cruelty, driven by a twisted belief that they are somehow superior.

For the most part, I loved this story. The first half felt like an A+ book that had me totally captivated as we unearthed all the mysteries that abound in Natchez and the civil rights era. The second half got a little overdone at times. I wasn't a fan of Penn's friend Kirk Boisseau, an ex-military friend and diver who felt a bit like a caricature. He at times was a little over-the-top, like some crazy surfer dude with ADD, and Kirk's relationship with his own girlfriend felt contrived and pointless.

But overall I have become a huge fan of Greg Iles, and the character of Penn Cage!

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, April 29th: Anita Loves Books
Wednesday, April 30th: A Bookworm’s World
Thursday, May 1st: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, May 5th: Joyfully Retired
Tuesday, May 6th: Book-alicious Mama
Wednesday, May 7th: cupcake’s book cupboard
Thursday, May 8th: Chronicles …
Tuesday, May 13th: Peppermint PhD
Wednesday, May 14th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Monday, May 19th: The House of Crime and Mystery

My final word: I loved this book so much I have already bought the first one in the series (The Quiet Game) in order to start from the beginning with Penn Cage.

This book shows the yellow underbelly of the cowards that fill the ranks of white supremacist groups, as well as the heroism of those who fight them, and who struggle to uncover the truth. The author has a wonderful quote from Aristotle that was very appropriate for this story:
“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals;
separated from law and justice he is the worst.”
This book spotlights both kinds of men, and does so expertly. Natchez will be burning in my heart and mind for a long time coming!

Buy Now:

Barnes & Noble

My Rating:  A


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.


Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Books like this ARE uncomfortable to read but I agree that they are very necessary. I'm looking forward to diving into this one myself very soon!

Thanks for being on the tour.

Bloody Roses said...

I'm italian and I read this novel in my Appennini's village:-). The italian title is "L'affare Cage". Now I'm looking for some images of Natchez and neightboroughs to imagine the places. Not perfect but very intriuguing novel for it focused on recnecks racism. The novel shows racism as ghost of a never endend "Secession war".