Book Review: Natchez Burning

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles


From #1 New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles comes the first novel in his Natchez Burning trilogy—which also includes The Bone Tree and the upcoming Mississippi Blood—an epic trilogy that interweaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present in a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern lawyer and former prosecutor Penn Cage.
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?

While the synopsis above is a good one, and certainly an intriguing one, it still doesn't come close to encompassing even a percent of what this book is. This book is so full and deep and intelligent that I'm still not fully able to wrap my head around what I just read. And yet, somehow, there are still two more books in this series of equal (sizeable) length. The entire time I read this I was mystified by that fact. What more could possibly happen to these people?? Fortunately, I have the opportunity to find out, as I'm a part of the book tour for this entire series. 

I finished this book mere minutes ago, after spending most of the night poring through it's last 250 pages. I'm still in a state of disbelief, panic, sorrow and joy at the conclusion of this thrilling story. It's hard to emphasize this enough, but so. much. happens. This book is so many things all at once. It's the edge-of-your-seat thriller, the gripping historical fiction (based on many real people and true events), and the violent and chilling story of two points in time, slowly blending together. Though the synopsis of this book emphasizes the relationship between Penn Cage and his father, after the latter is accused of murder, the story is so much deeper and more complex than that. Each chapter alternates to a new perspective, each darker and more fascinating than the last. Though this book had a bit of a slow start for me, the amount of build-up in suspense to the end was absolutely overwhelming, and the final scenes seemed almost designed to be recreated on a big screen. 

This book has a host of both incredible and horrendous characters, from the despicable members of the aging Double Eagles group, to the far opposite in Henry Sexton, the arguable hero of the entire narrative. But what set every character apart was their intense believability. Perhaps this is partly because of their basis in reality, but I also suspect it has a lot to do with Iles's impressive writing craft, which cannot be praised enough. 

My problems with this novel are incredibly sparse. At times I felt I was getting just a bit too much information, or one or two extraneous details that just seemed to bog down the action. The book is a massive one, and there were definitely times when I thought it could be cut down ever so slightly and still have been just as impressive in quality and content. 

This is not an easy book. It pulls no punches. It's openly violent, terrifying, and brutal, qualities made so visceral in part by their truth. These haunting acts were based on some real violence from our country's past and present. But because of its openness and honesty, this book is even more important. It's not only entertaining as hell, but informative and eye-opening. It has certainly changed my perspectives in multiple ways, and honestly, what more could I ever ask for in a work of remarkable fiction?

This review is part of a book tour by TLC Tours. Check out the rest of the tour here!


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

  2. First review I've read of Greg Iles's work. This book sounds quite intriguing as a historical thriller. Nice review!