Books | Febuary 2017
Known for his deft ability to blend plot-rich fiction with the complicated history of the American South, Greg Iles and his Natchez Burning trilogy have been hailed by fans, fellow authors, and critics as a truly extraordinary literary accomplishment, with many even comparing Iles to the beloved William Faulkner in terms of his skill and talent. It surely doesn’t hurt that Greg even had the honor to live in the cabin where Faulkner and his brothers listened to countless tales told by their beloved nanny, known as “Mammy Callie,” during his time at Ole Miss.
As fans of the first two installments will remember, the trilogy centers around Penn Cage, a small-town lawyer, and is set in modern-day Natchez, Mississippi. The book swirls with themes, but undoubtedly, the most pronounced of these is the impact of the past on the present. More specifically, Iles delves deeply into how the sins and wrongdoings buried in the history of Southern life can come back to haunt his characters even today.
With his principles undeniably compromised and his life seemingly in shambles, Penn has to face the harsh reality that his once-revered father, Dr. Tom Cage, will soon face a murder trial. Beyond this bleak fact lies an even more difficult question about what type of man his father really is. With the brutal members of the Double Eagles and their dangerous supporters still out there, Penn has a short window of opportunity to uncover the secrets of his family and the tumultuous world around him before devastating consequences ensue. Big questions loom over Penn as he tries to find truths in the shambles of his now forever-changed life.
One of these questions revolves around the possibility that he has a mysterious half brother who he never knew existed. Penn begins to examine the possibility that Viola Turner, his father’s ever-devoted nurse over the course of his career, could have been more than an employee. It isn’t long before Penn joins up with a young, famous writer who is willing to help him dig into the ghosts of the family’s unexplained past. Though their plan puts them directly in the line of danger and forces them to risk it all, it is their only shot at uncovering the truth and moving forward.
Iles has woven a beautifully complex and undeniably entertaining tale with this trilogy. In this final installment, readers will find the edge-of-the-seat suspense that they have come to expect in the author’s previous works, but ultimately, the novel does seek to provide resolution to the wild ride of a story that Penn’s life ended up becoming as the story progressed. This is the type of thriller which can both excite and educate, thanks to its thought-provoking historical context coupled with a superb and intricate tapestry of plot.
Though he was born in Germany while his father ran the US Embassy Medical Clinic, Greg Iles spent his youth in Natchez, which is the place he calls home today. His intimate knowledge, and understanding of Mississippi and of Southern culture and history, play an enormous role in the authenticity of this book and the trilogy as a whole. The first book in the series, Natchez Burning, was an instant bestseller and this book is expected to have similar popularity. Interestingly, Sony Pictures TV is currently developing a cable television series based on the trilogy. The author’s novels have been translated into more than 20 languages and published in more than 35 countries.
Bestselling author Greg Iles continues to forge his path as a modern-day master of Southern literature with the concluding novel in his beloved Natchez Burning Trilogy
Review by Shana Raley-Lusk