By: Greg Iles
Natchez Burning #3
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 3/21/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars +++
The 30 Best Books of 2017
EPIC! 10 stars — Secrets of Mississipi’s violent past and a KKK group called Double Eagles are revealed. At the heart, the big question: Who killed Viola Turner?
Natchez Burning The first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage, whose quest for the truth sends him deep into his father’s past. Top Books of 2014
The Bone Tree In this second volume, Penn is caught in the darkest maelstrom of his life, as he fights his way out of the war he unwittingly started with a violent offshoot of the KKK, the Double Eagles, and continues to hunt for the truth about dark deeds from the 1960s. Top Books of 2015
MISSISSIPPI BLOOD The endgame is at hand for Penn, his family, and the enemies working to destroy them. Featuring a trial scene that Publishers Weekly calls “among the most exciting ever written in the genre,” this novel delivers the shocking resolution Greg Iles’s fans have eagerly awaited.Top Books of 2017
The King of Southern Fiction, Greg Iles returns with his highly anticipated Natchez Burning trilogy, with his finale: MISSISSIPPI BLOOD – where we pick up following the murder of Viola Turner and the high profile trial of Dr. Tom Cage.
The Penn family is in crisis. Sins of the past still haunt the present.
Greg Iles is a master Southern storyteller and no one can compare! Skillfully crafted, a brilliant mix of Southern, historic, crime thriller, suspense, and classic literary fiction at its finest. He uncovers the moral outrage of racism, corruption, and hatred which has been a part of our history and still exists today- years after the Civil Rights era.
“Mississippi blood is different. It’s got some river in it. Delta soil, turpentine, asbestos, cotton poison. But there’s strength in it, too. Strength that’s been beaten but not broke.” ― Greg Iles, Mississippi Blood
Picking up from The Bone Tree, the Mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, former Houston prosecutor, and novelist Penn Cage is still grieving the loss of his fiancée Caitlin Masters. He still wonders if ghosts exist. He spends time visiting graves. Henry Sexton is dead. Caitlin is dead. Annie’s mother is gone —cancer took her to her death.
Presently, Penn is dealing with his dad’s upcoming murder trial. Local physician, Thomas J. Cage is being held in protective custody in Louisiana by the FBI for the murder of Viola Turner, his former black nurse, and mistress. He was not even allowed to attend Caitlin’s funeral. Penn has not spoken to his dad, Tom since Caitlin’s death.
The case has drawn national attention. Dr. Cage is accused of murdering his former 65-year-old black nurse in the wake of a pact that would have required him to euthanize the terminally ill woman who had been his employee thirty-eight years earlier.
In the final stages of lung cancer, she had returned to Natchez to die from Chicago. Being Cage is white and Nurse Turner was black, also complicated matters. In addition, it was recently revealed she had a child (Lincoln Turner) by Dr. Cage in 1968 while he was married. She was a widow at the time after her husband had been killed in the Vietnam War.
Assisted suicide? Or if administers the drugs, it is murder. A mercy killing? He was charged with first-degree murder.
However, what really happened that night? Did he administer drugs, or when he left, who came in next? Did Viola inject herself or something more sinister at play? A botched injection? A heart attack? An overdose or the wrong drug? So many questions and few answers.
What about the Double Eagles? Are they to blame? They have a history. Viola’s family wants justice. Lincoln set the investigation in motion. Does he have his own agenda?
There is John Kaiser of the FBI. Cage is being held in protective custody because he is a material witness in a major federal investigation and his life is in danger. He is being represented by African-American civil rights attorney Quentin Avery of Jefferson County, Mississippi, and Washington, DC.
Dr. Cage is keeping quiet. Avery his African American attorney in a wheelchair cannot discuss his case with Penn. What does Snake have to do with Viola’s murder? A recording of that night? Who are they protecting?
The civil rights era of the 1960s remains present. Viola Turner’s brother (a civil rights activist) was murdered by the Double Eagle in 1968. She was also raped repeatedly by the same group and the KKK. Upon returning to Natchez, this brought fear to the group. They want her dead. They had warned her.
Penn’s family is still under attack by Snake Knox and Double Eagles and the FBI cannot be counted on to protect them even though they live surrounded by bodyguards. Penn is raising his 11-yr. old daughter, Annie and his mom is staying near the prison in a motel, so he brings in the babysitter, Mia who has worked with them previously. His mom wants him to forgive his Dad enough to visit him in prison.
However, if his father had not hidden the truth of what inspired on the night Viola Turner died, Caitlin would never have become obsessed with Henry Sexton’s quest or picked up his torch after he martyred himself to save them, or followed a bloody trail to the abomination called The Bone Tree. She would be alive. They would be together in Edelweiss, their dream home with Annie and well on their way to a child together.
Penn’s work is suffering, and he is questioning his own sanity. Who is Quinton trying to protect? His family has imploded.
His father had two sons and one of them was doomed to be an orphan. The happiness of his childhood was bought with the pain of a black boy who had hurt no one. He had a brother and long after his father passes his blood will flow through both their veins.
. . . “A man who has known love and grief and understands that one is the price of the other.”
An upstanding physician and friend to many. A man, not perfect. Dr. Cage is self-destructing and has every puzzled. Penn’s half-brother, Lincoln Turner, is hell-bent on destroying the Cages. Race relations, violence, corruption, evil, and those with hatred. Even though Lincoln and Penn have the same blood running through them, they grew up differently.
To Lincoln, he had nothing growing up and Penn had it all. They are opposites. When Penn was striving for a baseball championship, with a highly respected physician and mother, Lincoln was scrapping in the streets and running from the Chicago PD. His stepfather was in and out of prison or gambling away his wife’s salary.
All along while Penn was moving from a successful legal career to an author of legal thrillers, Lincoln was slaving in a small firm, chasing small-time cases until he was finally busted for embezzling escrow funds from a client trust fund. Doing so in a desperate attempt to save his stepfather (which he thought was his father), from a long prison term and had his license suspended.
Penn can only image Lincoln’s rage. Now his mother is dead, and he wants someone to pay. Justice. Payback. Lincoln is the living symbol of his father’s sin. Perhaps, his crime. After all, it was Lincoln who set in motion the murder investigation. And now Lincoln haunts his city, his family like some dark, retributive spirit.
Yet, Penn is resilient. Family and friendships are important. He must find a way to help. He can only hope that Lincoln can free himself from the lies that shrouded his youth and become what Viola dreamed he would be. A man who embodies the best of both his parents.
Can the two brothers join forces and work together to solve this horrible wrong, to find the truth and attain justice for both father and mother? Time is running out for Dr. Cage. Unless Penn is successful at exposing the past to exonerate his father, his family will be destroyed.
“ . . .Right meant more than might; that being faithful and good meant more than being rich; that honor superseded all.”
Readers are introduced to a new character, Serenity Butler,(love her), a famous writer (light-skinned African American), and former army officer who steps in to tackle the Double Eagles. The beautiful and talented writer in Atlanta, from Mississippi originally. He cannot trust anyone, even his mother. However, he joins up with a young black author and former soldier named who has come to Natchez to write about Dr. Cage’s case. She may be his best ally. To help expose the dark secrets.
Formed in the 1960s, the group’s mission is terrorizing and murdering African-Americans, and they are still at it today. The Double Eagles have reasons to want Viola Turner dead, and if their involvement can be proved, it will save Tom. Penn has to find a way.
Heartwrenching, raw, emotional, complex, intelligent – Penn Cage desperately wants to believe in his father, the family martyr. The decisions his dad makes have terrible consequences for the entire family. Penn is tested. He wants to believe in truth and justice, but his beliefs and values are threatened and shaken to the core.
No one can rest until the last of the Knoxes have been jailed, and the Double Eagles smashed for all time.
Rich in Southern history, –From crusading journalists, racism, half-brothers, old lovers, old grudges, corruption, blacks-whites, fathers/sons, sons/mothers, strong family ties, protecting others, revenge, power, justice, and survival – Iles is at the top of his game with this extraordinary trilogy.
Superb character development, action-packed with page-turning suspense —bringing the saga to a satisfying conclusion. While at the same time exposing the ugliness, cruelty and shameful episodes of our past. Unfortunately, not only does it exist in the American South - it is widespread.
In 2011 the author was badly injured in an automobile accident and almost died, losing his right leg below the knee. Afterwards, he chose to go deeper with the story about family, race, prejudice, and secrets. His work is commendable!
Of course, we fans are delighted with the news: Sony Pictures TV is developing a cable series based on the books, with producers Tobey Maguire and David Hudgins (a Dallas native) and director John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”) attached. Can't wait! Let's hope they film it where it all took place, due to the author being an expert. Would not have the same impact, filmed elsewhere.
If you have reviewed Iles' website you know (house/office) property is for rent in Mississippi, due to the steps. One of these days, my wish is to visit and experience the journey, while touring the places and landmarks in the book. Enjoyed reviewing The Map.
“Mississippi Blood” is the capstone to what could legitimately be called a magnum opus. Iles has emerged from an excruciating ordeal to create a superb entertainment that is a work of power, distinction and high seriousness. These are angry novels, filled with a sense of deeply-considered moral outrage. They are also prime examples of what the thriller— and other forms of “genre” fiction — can accomplish when pushed beyond traditional limits.
Often grim and frequently horrifying, these Natchez Burning novels set their larger historical concerns against the credibly detailed backdrop of a family in crisis. As the Cage family endures its own trial by fire, Iles shows us both the weaknesses and strength of people tested by extreme circumstances and by secrets and lies that have festered for too long. In successfully illuminating both the inner life of a family in peril and “the troubled borderland between black and white,” he has created something memorable and true.” – Washington Post
As always, with Greg Iles books in this series, you need to experience MISSISSIPPI BLOOD in all formats. The audiobook is a must (narrated by Scott Brick) for an amazing performance (have listened several times). Then of course, you "must" purchase the Kindle format in order to highlight the beautiful lyrics; and last but not least, the print copy is a given, to add to your personal library collection.
USA Today: Greg Iles has his first-ever No. 1 USA TODAY best seller with Mississippi Blood the final book in his searing Natchez Burning trilogy.