From the book jacket:
Turning Angel marks the long-awaited
return of Penn Cage, the lawyer hero of
The Quiet Game, and introduces Drew
Elliott, the highly respected doctor who
saved Penn's life in a hiking accident when
they were boys. As two of the most prominent
citizens of Natchez, Drew and Penn sit on
the school board of their alma mater, St.
Stephen's Prep. When the nude body of a
young female student is found near the
Mississippi River, the entire community is
shocked -- but no one more than Penn, who
discovers that his best friend was entangled
in a passionate relationship with the girl
and may be accused of her murder. Penn
allows his sense of obligation to override
his instinct and agrees to defend his
friend. Yet before he can begin, both men
are drawn into a dangerous web of blackmail
and violence. Drew reacts like anything but
an innocent man, and Penn finds himself
doubting his friend's motives and searching
for a path out of harm's way.
Comment: Coincidentally, Turning Angel explores a similar topic to Picoult's The Tenth Circle (reviewed above). According to his website, Iles has got quite a lot of flak for Turning Angel, which has proved more controversial than any of his other books. One source of controversy lies in Iles's portrayal of the female victim as having drawn violence on herself by making bad decisions. In defense of his book Iles says, "Any cop can tell you that some victims are at least partly to blame for the crimes that befall them. We all have a responsibility to use our common sense to protect ourselves, even high school boys and girls."
Another source of controversy is localized among the residents of the small city of Natchez, Mississippi (the setting for for all of Iles's Penn Cage novels). It seems that despite the fact that Iles goes out of his way to say that while the setting of his novels is real, the characters are not, the residents of Natchez (who were once happy to see their city immortalized) have turned figuring out who his characters really are into something of a bloodsport, with vicious rumors abounding after every book is published, particularly after Turning Angel which has as it's central theme the secret lives of high school students, and specifically the phenomenon of sexual affairs between older men and high school girls.
"Please enjoy Turning Angel for what it is, a heartfelt and rather shocked portrayal of a part of our culture that most adults know far too little about, and which we should do all we can to understand. The future is in the hands of the children in this novel, and others like them." - Greg IlesPro: "All this is lurid in the extreme and, in Iles's hands, entirely gripping, but there is more to Turning Angel than sex and scandal. Iles offers an insider's heartfelt picture of a Southern town that is dying because of lousy schools, a failing economy and racial tensions" - The Washington Post.
This review was originally published in January 2006, and has been updated for the November 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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