Thursday, June 05, 2014

“Natchez Burning” by Greg Iles – In the Name of Justice

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles – book cover
With his first novel in over five years, Greg Iles goes back to his favourite place of all, the town he himself was raised in, Natchez, Mississippi. This fresh outing, titled Natchez Burning, is the first part of an entirely new trilogy, and it is centered on two characters: Tom and Penn Cage, with the former being the latter’s father.

Tom is a respected and well-liked family doctor, while Penn is a successful lawyer. However, their world is shattered when Tom falls under accusations of murdering Violet Turner, a nurse he worked with back in the sixties. Determined to save his father at all costs and see justice done to those who truly deserve it, Penn throws his body and soul at the case, and as it always happens, bites off more than he can chew. Delving deeper than he ever wanted into a vast conspiracy involving the KKK, the Double Eagles, one of the most powerful men in the country, is confronted with having to decide what justice is truly worth.

And so Greg Iles finally returns to us once again, and with a veritable tour de force that completely justifies his prolonged absence. In this first book the stage is perfectly set and arranged for the development of the many plot threads this kind of story is bound to have. Iles, once again, does a magnificent job at describing the environment and the people who live in it, so much that by the end of it you could safely say that you’ve not only visited the town, but actually lived in it.

As far as the characters go, though a few of them did seem a bit stale to me, the important ones were all but unmemorable. Already at this stage it is obvious that some of them, especially Penn, are still growing and are only at the beginning of a very long and perhaps even chaotic development arc, making the future books that much more promising, at least in my opinion.

As far as the story itself goes, I expect more attention will be paid to the actual case in future books, though what we get in this one is most certainly top quality. There is a great mystery looming about, and Iles did a magnificent job at raising a bunch of questions while only giving enough answers to wet the reader’s tongue. Also, I have to admit that the atmosphere was especially dreadful, with the concept of there being something horrible, vile, rotten and destructive hidden beneath the surface of a quaint little hamlet spectacularly implemented.

All in all, if you enjoy large murder and power conspiracies involving many players and taking place in a rural setting, then you really owe it to yourself to read this. It is solid every step of the way, and from the looks of it, there are only good things to come from future novels in this series.

Greg Iles (1960)

Greg Iles

Personal site

Greg Iles is an American novelist who was born in Germany and was raised in Natchez, Mississippi, which is where many of his novels take place. Before becoming a novelist and publishing his first work, Spandau Phoenix (which eventually became a New York Bestseller), Iles was a singer, songwriter and guitarist.

More of the Greg Iles' book reviews:
The Bone Tree

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