Natchez Burning is the fourth book of Iles' that features Penn Cage as the main character. The story, of course, takes place in Natchez, Mississippi. Penn was a former prosecutor, and author who has become mayor of Natchez. His father, Dr. Tom Cage, was a highly respected physician in town who was charged with the murder of his former African-American nurse, Viola Turner, who had worked for him in the 1960's. During that time, Viola's younger brother had been stabbed by the KKK and then disappeared. Shortly after his disappearance, Viola moved to Chicago. She had recently returned to Natchez and was dying of cancer. After she died, her son accused Dr. Cage of giving her a lethal injection. When Penn learned of the charges, he went to his father, and his father refused to discuss it or Viola with him.
Penn began working to learn more about Viola and his father's relationship with her. Meanwhile, Penn was also finding out more information from Henry, a reporter of a small town newspaper who had been working for years trying to gather information on the 1960's cases. Penn's fiance ran the local newspaper in Natchez and began working with Henry to help with finding information that would clear Dr. Tom Cage.
As Penn worked to find the truth, the dark past of Natchez came to light, with murders, violence and disappearances from the 1960's Civil Rights movement, the Ku Klux Klan and a group more elite than the Klan, the Double Eagles, a group that was formed by the most powerful men in Natchez in the 1960's. Even more interesting, as Penn dug deeper, he learned of possible connections to political assassinations of those times.
As I said, I could not put this book down. It is riveting! I have always been a huge fan of Greg Iles' works and this is the best so far! I cannot wait for the next one in the trilogy, set (hopefully) to come out next year. There was one sentence near the end of the book that gave me a clue of what is to come and it is fascinating!
Greg Iles was raised in Natchez and lives there now, which I think adds to the flavor of the book. For anyone interested, here is a list from Wikipedia of his novels:
- Spandau Phoenix (1993) ISBN 0-525-93604-1
- Black Cross (1995) ISBN 0-525-93829-X
- Mortal Fear (1997) ISBN 0-525-93792-7
- The Quiet Game (1999) ISBN 0-525-93793-5
- 24 Hours (2000) ISBN 0-399-14624-5
- Dead Sleep (2001) ISBN 0-399-14735-7
- Sleep No More (2002) ISBN 0-399-14881-7
- The Footprints of God (2003) (also titled Dark Matter) ISBN 0-340-82274-0
- Blood Memory (2005) ISBN 0-7432-3470-7
- Turning Angel (2005) ISBN 0-7432-3471-5
- True Evil (2006) ISBN 0-7432-9249-9
- Third Degree (2007)
- The Devil's Punchbowl (2009) ISBN 978-0-7432-9251-1
- Natchez Burning (2014)
- The Bone Tree (2015)
- Unwritten Laws (2016)