Written By: Greg Iles
Published By: William Morrow an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers April 29, 2014
Length: 800 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Penn Cage is the mayor of Natchez Mississippi, a small town that lies along the Mississippi River in the southern part of the state. Penn has had a storied life as a prosecutor and an author. Now he is faced with his most challenging task, to save his father, Dr. Tom Cage, who is accused of murdering his former nurse Viola Turner.
There are secrets buried everywhere surrounding Natchez, secrets of the KKK, torture, murders, fires, and untold atrocities. Not all of them occurred in the 1960’s. Penn is learning at every turn that the threats and sacred oaths that happened long ago are not forgotten. Penn is assisted in his search for truth by journalist Henry Sexton, who writes for a Louisiana weekly paper. Henry has been slowly and meticulously building a case against a group of men known as The Double Eagles. These men were an off shoot of the KKK and committed untold hate crimes during the 1960’s. The many individual tales are woven together in this book to create a timeline that leads to why Tom Cage is being framed for this murder. As in most groups like this there is a person of power and wealth, and his story too will be brought to life. Penn’s fiance Caitlin is also a journalist, and her persistence helps unravel the secrets.
From page one this book grabs you and takes you to places you don’t want to go, but can’t turn away from. The awful events that ran rampant during the Civil Rights era are splayed open completely in the beginning of Natchez Burning. While cringing and yet pressed to read on I was reminded that while this book is fiction, the accounts are all too real. The unabashed hatred of black people is found in these pages, and in something as small as a young white woman and her passion with a young black man, a rage begins. Her father’s vendetta against him and all who protect or know him is all consuming. What happens is evil and gruesome.
The book is written in changing points of view, Penn’s first person account and the third person point of view of past and present other characters. The events of 1964, 1968 and present all come together to give us, the readers, the true picture of how history converges and is often never over. These once young men are now in their 70’s and older, some dying and wanting to cleanse their souls of past sins. Some still as angry and merciless as ever. There are crooked cops and a DA with an agenda, and family members who believe Tom Cage has kept a past love affair hidden. Penn realizes that learning all the past is critical to his primary goal, saving his father.
While the book is 800 pages I didn’t want to put it down. I read it slowly, meandering my way through because I needed to digest what I was reading. It is a tale that you need to think about, and even now there is so much more to say. Greg Iles is a story teller, his characters are so detailed and intimate that you almost believe you can read their thoughts. I was anxious as I was reading, fearful for the lives of those I cared for. I can’t implore you enough to get this book, it’s so well written and it will leave you breathless…and sad, but with a sense of some justice.
To learn more about Greg Iles, please visit any of these sites
I read this book as a part of TLC Book Tours, you can see other reviews along the tour by checking here.