The first book in a trilogy that will just knock you over it is so compelling and non-stop. The action and history is condensed into an 800-page turner of a book, which fills in history and the violence of the 1960s that continues into 2005.
NATCHES BURNING was sent to me by TLC Book Tours and I have to admit I was not too thrilled as I was already reviewing 7 books for them this month and this gem was 800 pages and part of a 3 way deal. Whew! I am not hugely a fan of thrillers either although this one had some historic merit, which found me interested. Then I read what Stephen King wrote on the cover:
“ Natchez Burning is extraordinarily entertaining and fiendishly suspenseful. I defy you to start it and find a way to put it down; as long as it is, I wished it were longer. There’s a bonus: You’ll finish knowing a great deal about the Deep South’s painful struggle toward racial equality, and the bloody road between Then and Now. Only a southern man could have written this book, and thank God Greg Iles was there to do the job. This is an amazing work of popular fiction.”
There was so much history in this story from the killing of the voter registration workers in 1964 to present day distress and unequal treatment. The torture and murder of anyone of color, and others, who got in the way or seemed funky to the KKK and the wealthy scheming whites were just what one thought was going on in the back of the mind. And yet, the FBI and police could not seem to find the guilty parties or justice.
Iles has lived in Natchez, Mississippi all of his life and the book is full of characters that his fans have known before. Dr. Tom Cage is a physician who has served all of his community with his medical care, which involved the keeping of many secrets. Dr. Cage’s son Penn is a lawyer, writer and now Mayor of Natchez and is working to solve the charges against his father. Henry Sexton is a reporter who has faithfully kept the research and storytelling alive about the murders, fires and rape which throughout his history has plagued the community and threatened every member of the society with prejudice and hate. Dr. Cage is loosely based on Iles own father, and the newspaperman is based on a fellow who has written the stories in his own paper in town and is about to write his own book on what he knows.
The book is extremely hard to put down and I read the whole in 3 days of hard pressure. I can actually say that I am looking forward to THE BONE TREE, which I will review next month; book two in the trilogy I must wait until March for book three.
Even thought it contains a great deal of history, I know one of my book groups will not read it because of the violence and another because they have a 400 page limit. It is a thriller and it contains a great deal of violence; it reveals a great deal of the context that I always thought was true but has been bred into the culture and will take a great teacher to heal and a determined citizen to break through. Greg Iles breaks through and opens a door to re-enculturation. NATCHEZ BURNING – What a Read!
“Greg Iles spent most of his youth in Natchez, Mississippi. His first novel, SPANDAU PHOENIX, was the first of thirteen NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers, and his new trilogy continues the story of Penn Cage, protagonist of THE QUIET GAME, TURNING ANGEL, AND #1 NY TIMES bestseller THE DEVIL’S PUNCHBOWL. Iles novels have been made into films and published in more than thirty-five countries. He lives in Natchez with his wife and has two children.”