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Natchez Burning    by Greg Iles order for
Natchez Burning
by Greg Iles
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

It has taken Greg Iles a while to recover from an auto accident but that has given the author time to plan his next literary project. And what a project it is!

Awaited with much anticipation by his numerous fans, the writer's new novel, Natchez Burning, is the first volume of a trilogy featuring Penn Cage.

In this lengthy novel (789 pages), Cage, a former prosecutor and now Natchez's mayor, is faced with a situation he never imagined he'd be forced to deal with. His father, the community's well respected and venerable doctor, is facing a murder charge. Tom Cage is about to be accused of the murder of his long time African-American nurse and friend, Viola Turner. Doctor Tom refuses to defend himself, citing client privilege when asked about the night of Viola's death.

Convinced his father is innocent, Penn, assisted by his fiancée and a reporter who knows where all the local skeletons are buried, sets out to prove his father had nothing to do with Viola's death. Of course, what follows is a journey that takes Penn back to Mississippi's turbulent past during the 1960s and focuses attention on a secretive KKK group known as the Double Eagles.

As we have come to know from reading other novels set in this part of the country during this period, race relations were often far more complicated than we realized. Obviously the 1960s was a particularly violent time as the drive for social justice captured national and international attention.

Setting this novel in the actual town where he grew up allows Iles to call upon not only a setting he is intimately acquainted with but also a history with which he is very familiar.

As Penn Cage embarks on this harrowing journey of discovery, he's going to learn, along with the reader, some amazing and surprising things about not only his fellow citizens but also his own family.

Isn't that what stories like this are all about? Why, of course. And, in this instance, this family epic and riveting thriller is going to be developed over three novels.

Much wordier than its predecessors, Natchez Burning can bog down a bit at times but that won't bother Greg Iles' diehard fans. The picture of the Deep South and its quirky characters that he creates takes time to develop, so be patient; you won't be sorry in the end.

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