Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles
Raised in the southern splendor of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows of duty from his father, Dr. Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor has been accused of murdering the African American nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the 1960s. Once a crusading prosecutor, Penn is determined to save his father, but Tom, stubbornly invoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses even to speak in his own defense.
Penn’s quest for the truth sends him deep into his father’s past, where a sexually charged secret lies. More chilling, this long-buried sin is only one thread in a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the most powerful men in the state. Aided by a dedicated reporter privy to Natchez’s oldest secrets and by his fiancée, Caitlin Masters, Penn uncovers a trail of corruption and brutality that places his family squarely in the Double Eagles’ crosshairs.
With every step costing blood and faith, Penn is forced to confront the most wrenching dilemma of his life: Does a man of honor choose his father or the truth?
I confess, I’m supposed to be finished Natchez Burning today, for a TLC Book Tour, but I’m only about halfway through. But that has nothing to do with the book, and everything to do with life getting in the way of reading, as it has a tendency to do occasionally. I’ve had a ton of exciting things happen in the past month, not least of which has been landing a freelance contract with Scholastic Books in the U.S.–yay! It’s been a fun ride so far, but in the meantime, I haven’t had much time left for reading.
Which does make me sad. But I WILL finish Natchez Burning, and not just because I’m scheduled to write about The Bone Tree, book two of the trilogy, next month. Natchez Burning is a great read, and it’s a book I need to finish. I want to find out what happens!
Here, in list form, are my thoughts so far:
- This is one intense read. From the very start, I could feel my heart beating faster, my entire body tensing up as I read.
- It’s a good novel to read in these times. It’s given me much needed insight into the roots of the racial conflict we see today, and a better understanding of how it is, after all our years of progress, we still really aren’t very much further than we were in the 1960s when it comes to racial inequality.
- It has been, at times, a gut-wrenchingly difficult read for me. Brutal violence washes through the pages, and when I sit back to take a breath, it brings me to tears to know that it’s a violence that’s not fantasy, not made up, but rather, solidly rooted in facts. Iles doesn’t hold anything back; there’s no sugar coating anything. To say it brings history alive is an understatement. I’ve also spent a lot of time while reading this book reflecting on man’s inhumanity to man.
- Despite being a difficult read in that way, it’s also magnetic, pulling me through its pages.
- And the suspense! It’s so suspenseful, for quite a few of its chapters, I’ve had to quickly flip to the end of the chapter to see how it ends, and then go back to the beginning of the chapter and find out how things got to that end. It’s a little bit of cheating, I know, but there’s no other way I can handle the suspense. Yes, it’s that good.
I have no doubt this will be a book that will stay with me for days when it’s done–weeks, probably. It has so many things going for it: it’s intense, it’s a thriller, it has such an epic sweep, it’s a multi-generational saga, it weaves history throughout its more contemporary timeline in an effortless way … I could go on and on. And that’s just based on what I’ve read so far!