Summary and book reviews of Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

Natchez Burning

A Penn Cage Novel

by Greg Iles

Natchez Burning
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2014, 800 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2015, 816 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

Rich in Southern atmosphere and electrifying plot turns, Natchez Burning is tense and disturbing, the most explosive, exciting, sexy, and ambitious story Greg Iles has written yet.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated novel yet and his first in five years - Natchez Burning - the first installment in an epic trilogy that interweaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present in a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern lawyer and former prosecutor Penn Cage.

Growing up in the rural Southern hamlet of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned everything he knows about honor and duty from his father, Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor and pillar of the community is accused of murdering Violet Turner, the beautiful nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the early 1960s. A fighter who has always stood for justice, Penn is determined to save his father, even though Tom, stubbornly evoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses to speak up in his own defense.

The quest for answers sends Penn deep into the past - into the heart of a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the Double Eagles, a vicious KKK crew headed by one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state. With the aid of a local friend and reporter privy to some of Natchez's oldest and deadliest secrets, Penn follows a bloody trail that stretches back forty years, to one undeniable fact: no one - black or white, young or old, brave or not - is ever truly safe.

With everything on the line, including his own life, Penn must decide how far he will go to protect those he loves... and see justice done, once and for all.

Rich in Southern atmosphere and electrifying plot turns, Natchez Burning marks the brilliant return of a genuine American master of suspense. Tense and disturbing, it is the most explosive, exciting, sexy, and ambitious story Greg Iles has written yet.

First published in hardcover in April 2014

CHAPTER 1



ALBERT NORRIS SANG a few bars of Howlin' Wolf's "Natchez Burnin' " to cover the sounds of the couple making love in the back of his shop. The front door was locked. It was after seven, the streets deserted. But today had been a bad day. Albert had tried to cancel the rendezvous by switching on the light in the side room where he taught piano during the week—he'd even sent a boy to warn the man to stay away from the shop—but the two lovers had ignored his warnings and come anyway. He'd set up their rendezvous a week ago, by sending out a coded message during his gospel radio show, which was his usual method. But lovers who saw each other only twice a month—if they were lucky— weren't going to be deterred by a warning light in a window, not even if their lives were at risk.

The white woman had arrived first, rapping lightly at the alley door. Albert had tried to run her off— whites were supposed to use the front—but...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about Natchez Burning. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

A critic described Natchez Burning as William Faulkner "for the Breaking Bad generation." What do you think of this comparison?
I do not think that Iles compares to Faulkner. Someone mentioned stream of consciousness as similar. I actually felt Iles used a great deal of dialogue instead. I, too, have not watched Breaking Bad. - Peggy H

Are the characters doomed to suffer from their own personal histories? Have you ever had to overcome your own outdated ideas/beliefs in order to grow as a person?
I actually agree with everyone on this but I know it is difficult to overcome beliefs you have grown up with. Children learn from their parents. Yes, it is possible to change but in doing so you must come to the realization that the people you loved ... - sharalynnep

Do you think secrecy is worth the price?
Yes. What?? No really, the price of the secret is based solely upon what the individual can endure. In fact, I believe that the price paid by the bearer has very little to do with the cost of keeping the secret, and it is the price of the truth that ... - kenanr

Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?
I don't think that personal experiences affect a person's reading of this book. Some people may not be as caring as others; there are - sadly- those people who do not care as much if they are not personally affected. However, the ongoing wars around... - rebeccar

Is there a unique, identifiable quality to Southern novels and novelists? What is it?
I am a Southerner, and I love Southern literature! There is usually a strong sense of place and setting is important to the story. Racial tension is often present as well. I loved the way Greg Iles tied the history of the 60s to the tragedy of ... - gdlenehan

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This superlative novel's main strength comes from the lead's struggle to balance family and honor.

Library Journal

Starred Review. In this first of a trilogy, best-selling author Iles brings back his Southern lawyer (The Devil's Punch Bowl) in an absorbing and electrifying tale that thriller fans will be sure to devour.

Booklist

Starred Review. This beautifully written novel represents some of the author's finest work, with sharper characterizations and a story of especially deep emotional resonance, and we eagerly await volume two.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A searing tale of racial hatreds and redemption in the modern South, courtesy of Southern storyteller extraordinaire Iles... A memorable, harrowing tale.

Author Blurb Scott Turow, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Natchez Burning is just flat-out terrific... its themes about race, violence, tradition, and the eternal smoldering anger of the South [bring] to mind Thomas Wolfe and William Faulkner... Greg Iles is back and truly better than ever.

Author Blurb Stephen King, No. 1 bestselling author
Natchez Burning is extraordinarily entertaining and fiendishly suspenseful. I defy you to start it and find a way to put it down...This is an amazing work of popular fiction

Author Blurb Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leaving Time
I don't know how Iles did it, but every single page of Natchez Burning is a cliffhanger that will keep you devouring just one more chapter before you put it down...this ambitious, unique novel is the perfect marriage of a history lesson and a thriller.

Reader Reviews

Barbara P.

An Addictive Read
From the first page of this book, I was hooked. Having grown up in the 1970's in an active Klan area, the moral dilemma and social complexities described in the book were very disturbing and relate-able. How does one react when they are suddenly the ...   Read More

M

Incredidble
Iles creates an amazing mystery with loads of historical references, the setting pulls you into the south and its environs and culture. You will not be bored, rather you will find yourself enthralled with the characters and all that's unearthed. The ...   Read More

Vivian T.

A Change is Coming...
Natchez Burning presents a variety of societal issues without any sugarcoating, such as rampant racism, racially motivated torture and killings, rape, intimidation, adultery, illegal drugs, family, injustice, and, the worst thing of all, secrets. How...   Read More

Charlene

Reality check
Natchez Burning is truly a book worth reading. The author put me into Viola's, Penn's, Shad's, Tom's, Jimmy's, Glenn's, Albert"s lives as if I were living them & felt completely baffled by how a human being, both men, women, and children, ...   Read More

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