Likeable character Penn Cage is mayor of his hometown Natchez, Mississippi in the deep south of the USA. His father, Dr Tom Cage, who is still Penn’s idol, stands accused of murdering an African-American nurse who used to work for him. And the prosecutor, District Attorney Shadrach Johnson, has been waiting for a chance to get even with Penn since the last time Penn bested him in the riverboat gambling scandal that threatened to tear Natchez apart (‘The Devil’s Punchbowl’).
‘The international bestseller’ the cover of Natchez Burning trumpets above author Greg Iles’ name. Maybe they had to do that because the book wasn’t selling as well as they hoped? While I’ve long been a fan of Iles and have been waiting and waiting for his new book, it seems that ol’ Greg spent much of his time recuperating from his near-death accident in 2011 reading through James Lee Burke’s back catalogue. Man, has Iles become windy! And with much less rhyme nor reason than Burke.
The story premise was engaging, but I felt like writing a letter to his editor, asking why s/he had not slashed and burned at least a third of the words from this 791 page tome. Maybe s/he felt like I did – overly sympathetic? I was originally going to flame this book as sub-par, then Googled to see if it was just me who disliked it (it appears I am in the minority) and found Greg Iles had finished this book in 2011, prior to his accident, but decided to ‘delve more deeply into the characters of “Natchez Burning” and broaden the novel’s background of racial strife and murder in the Jim Crow South’ (http://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/life/2014/05/05/tragedy-changed-greg-iles-book-natchez-burning/8712971/, accessed 13 May 2014).
In the same article, I read there will be two other books in the series! I’m not reading them, but do feel free to make up your own mind and let us all know what you think in the comments below.
Greg Iles has enough of a back catalogue of other novels not related to Penn Cage to make it worthwhile seeking him out in our catalogue – before he became self-indulgent. 2/5 stars.
– Tamara Jones