Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Penn Cage #4

Natchez Burning

Rate this book
#1 New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated novel yet—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 is accused of murdering Viola Turner, the beautiful nurse with whom he worked in the early 1960s. A fighter who has always stood for justice, Penn is determined to save his father.

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. Now Penn must follow 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.

791 pages, Hardcover

First published March 13, 2014

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Greg Iles

111 books6,176 followers
Greg Iles was born in Germany in 1960. He grew up in Natchez, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1983. He was active in a band called "Frankly Scarlet", but quit after realizing that the touring lifestyle was not conducive with his family life. Once no longer busy with the band, he turned his attention to writing.

Greg's novels have been translated into various languages and are published in more than 20 countries. In addition to his popular novels, he wrote the original script for the movie 24 Hours (later renamed Trapped).

When not writing, Greg spends some of his time playing music. He's a member of "The Rock Bottom Remainders", which includes other authors (Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount, Jr., Matt Groening, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, and James McBride).

Greg still lives in Natchez, Mississippi, with his wife and has three children.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
15,823 (42%)
4 stars
14,426 (38%)
3 stars
5,349 (14%)
2 stars
1,321 (3%)
1 star
564 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,222 reviews
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews524 followers
August 14, 2016
My god, have I been living under a rock? How is it I have not read one of this man’s books before now? Further still, something, rang familiar, but what? A quick scan of my physical shelves gave it up. I have another one of Iles books languishing there as yet unread. Let me tell you that will change.

It’s true; I wanted to like this book. I was not however, prepared to be knocked off my socks, but I was. This man writes with the absolute authority of someone who knows well, his landscape, but he still wants you to meet its people, gradually, over time, as the story builds. Which it does, every page led to the next and even though I knew I should stop reading right then, I could not talk myself into doing so. With each page the story grew, with me held firmly in its claws, my eyes burning every time I put it down!

“If a man is forced to choose between the truth and his father, only a fool chooses the truth. “ A great writer said that and for a long time I agreed with him. But put into practice, this adage could cloak almost any sin. My Mother would agree with it, but I doubt my older sister would, and my fiancée would scoff at the idea. Perhaps we expect too much of our fathers. Nothing frightens me more than the faith in my daughter’s eyes. How many men deserve that kind of trust?

It is set in modern day Natchez, Mississippi. It is Penn Cage’s story really, he is mayor of Natchez and the son of Dr. Tom Cage, who is a pillar; beloved by the community. He is also a suspect in the recent death of his former nurse, Viola, an African American with whom he worked in the early 1960’s, during a time of racial unrest, a time of the KKK ; Martin Luther King, President John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and yes, local justice.

In order to help his father, Penn will need to know what really happened here, a long time ago. And his Dad is not talking.

I double dog dare you to put it down!

Profile Image for Susan May.
Author 233 books616 followers
May 3, 2014
I don't understand all the great ratings. It started off well but I couldn't stand the repetition of the same information. By page 350, it really slows down. By 520 I skipped to the last chapter and I don't think I missed anything. And this is the 1st of a trilogy. How can you not tell a full story in 800 pages?? This book would gave been great if it was cut to 400 pages.
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,159 reviews36.8k followers
April 22, 2017
5 Stars.
A Riveting and Monumental Beginning to an Incredible Trilogy.

Natchez Burning is an epic story of family, friends, the KKK, an off shoot group called the Double Eagles and race relations in the South. How far each group will go to take care of and protect each other. Loyalties are tested. And the past refuses to stay buried.

At the heart of this story is Penn Cage, the Mayor of Natchez, Mississippi and his father, Dr. Tom Cage. Penn is a former prosecutor. His dad, Dr. Cage is an old school doctor who still makes house calls and treats everyone the same, regardless of their skin color, which is very rare in Natchez and was even rarer back when Dr. Cage was a young physician. Race relations in the South have always been tumultuous, but back in the mid 60’s? It was downright scary and in this series, it still is. The Double Eagles have made sure of that. Viola Turner, is Dr. Cage’s former nurse who is afflicted with terminal cancer. Here, she returns to Natchez from Chicago to die. Not wanting to suffer, she turns to Dr. Cage for help. Years prior, she and Tom Cage were engaged in an illicit affair. Illicit because she is black and he is not. And he was and is married. And in Natchez in the 60’s that was wholly unacceptable. Yet Viola was warned by the Double Eagles to never return to Natchez, Mississippi. And she didn’t listen. And now Dr. Cage is accused of performing physician assisted suicide on his former nurse. Viola’s son, Lincoln Turner wants Dr. Cage to suffer for his crimes and his anger burns something fierce.

Penn is swept up in trying to prove his father’s innocence while taking care of his daughter Annie and spending time with his girlfriend Caitlin Masters, the newspaper journalist and publisher (and Pulitzer prize winner), who can’t help but investigate the crimes of the Double Eagles, while working to help Dr. Cage as well, much to Penn’s chagrin. Adding to this delightful story is another reporter, Henry Sexton, who has dedicated his life to solving old crimes from the civil rights era, which puts him in terrible danger. He is tenacious and crazy brave. (Translation: I heart him!).

Penn Cage has always believed in right and wrong. In the strength of family. In his father. His beliefs are tested. Nothing is what it seems. When his father gets arrested, Penn Cage is forced to examine everything he holds dear and the life he thought he knew like the back of his hand. Penn discovers that Natchez was and is the site of the violent race crimes involving the Double Eagles, and that Viola Turner was a victim of their heinous acts, as were several others including civil rights activists, Luther Davis and Jimmy Revels (brother of Viola Turner). This leads Penn down a path he never anticipated.. one that weaves a conspiracy involving parts of American History. He discovers that his father has kept secrets for years.. and that he doesn’t know him as well as he thought he did.

Natchez Burning is masterful storytelling. Not once does the story suffer from being long or drawn out. .. not once does the reader lose interest. You are glued to every single page. Though the story contains race relations and racial violence Greg Iles handles those moments quite skillfully. This is a powerfully, ambitious novel that pulls you in at the get go. It would be a shame to pass it by. It is Greg Iles at his best my friends.

*If you have not read any of Greg Iles other novels, Penn Cage and Dr. Tom Cage have been characters in four of Greg Iles other books, however, you do not need to read the other Penn Cage novels to read this trilogy. These can be read as STANDALONES.

For those of you that don’t know, while writing Natchez Burning, Greg Iles was in a horrible accident that caused him to have one of his legs partially amputated. Yet somehow, he overcame, persevered and finished this stellar novel and went on to finished this Trilogy. Talk about Strength. I am amazed. And these books did not suffer (they are in fact the BEST trilogy/Series, I have ever read in my lifetime).


Review of Mississippi Blood to Follow.

Published on Goodreads & Amazon on 4/7/17.
Profile Image for Carol.
829 reviews482 followers
April 25, 2014
At more than 800 pages Natchez Burning is a big book which tells a big story. My prediction is it will be a big bestseller too.

My sincere thanks to William Morrow for allowing me to read Natchez Burning prior to its April 2014 publication.

I don't like to know too much about a book going in. Sometimes reading a publisher synopsis or pre-publication reviews can be helpful but often they over reveal. I didn't know going in that Natchez Burning was planned as a trilogy. I didn't even know that there are already three Penn Cage novels. I didn't realize that during the writing of Natchez Burning that Iles lost his father, the inspiration of the character of Dr. Tom Cage. I didn't realize Iles, while writing this book suffered a life changing auto accident that left him in a medical induced coma and that he eventually lost part of his leg. What I did know was that Natchez Burning promised to explore just how well we know our parents, seeing them with a child's eyes where they can do no wrong and then again as an adult where flaws and secrets surface. In flashbacks over 40 years we learn that Dr. Cage once had a beautiful, black nurse, Viola who due to some horrific events, flees to Chicago. Present day finds Dr. Cage being accused of murdering her, when she returns to Natchez, dying from cancer.Penn, a lawyer, now the mayor of Natchez believes in his father's innocence, feeling the murder is assisted suicide and cannot understand why his dad won't defend himself. Doubt enters. The quest for the truth sends Penn searching for answers back to the turbulent years of the civil rights movement. The plot weaves a story of conspiracy involving 5 K's, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan, called The Double Eagles and lastly, Katrina. To his credit Iles makes this work.

The characters jump off the pages. Some of my favorites include Penn, main narrator, as he tries to figure out just who his father really is. He contemplates that it might be better not to know, that it would be more merciful to escape the consequences of acts committed long ago. But once he starts to probe, ignorance is wishful thinking.

"For once the stone hits the surface of the pond, the ripples never really stop. The waves diminish, and all seems to to return to its previous state, but that's an illusion."

There are so many other important characters. Albert Norris, the black owner of a music shop who makes money on the side by renting out his back room for cohabitation of the races. The music shop and the piano lessons that he and his daughter teach are the best thing that ever happens for many of Natchez youth, both black and white. Henry , a reporter who dedicates his life to finding the bodies and unearthing the deeds long buried by the Double Eagles. A Texas Ranger, Penny’s girlfriend newspaper publisher, Caitlin Masters, and other outstanding characters had me cheering for them to win, as well as some, dirty law, politicians, mobsters, powerful men, the scum of the earth that would not be missed at all.

Natchez Burning is not for the weak stomached. It is brutally violent, and often depressing. It brings up history that can't be buried and reminds us of what has changed and what hasn't and how I can never really put myself in a black person's skin. A character quotes "There's a secret history here". You can say that again. Natchez Burning is a fast paced, action packed, heck of a good read, one that proves this quote used to open Part Two.

"Truth is rarely pure and never simple." Oscar Wilde

In an afterword Iles explains that while this is fiction many of the background cases were taken from unsolved race murders in Concordia Parish, Louisiana and southwest Mississippi in the 60's. He cites Stanley Nelson of the Concordia Sentinel who has been working to solve cases such as these for years.
Civil Rights Cold Case Project

Do I need to go back and read the first three Penn Cage novels? Not necessarily. Natchez Burning can stand alone. I am certain there will be those that think Natchez could have been tightened up and that it's a tad over the top but I sat on the edge of my seat throughout and didn't get bored. There are questions left dangling. I might be satisfied to draw my own conclusions. Will I read the second in the trilogy? I'd probably be lying if I said no.

Profile Image for Julie .
4,027 reviews58.9k followers
November 20, 2017
Natchez Burning by Greg Iles is a 2014 William Morrow publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Since we last caught up with Penn Cage, his father has survived a heart attack and Penn is now the mayor of Natchez and preparing to marry his long time girlfriend Caitlyn. Before the wedding can take place all hell breaks loose, literally.
A former nurse for Tom Cage has died of terminal cancer. Her son, Lincoln, believes Dr. Cage performed an assisted suicide and is livid. He has the D.A., a long time enemy of Penn's, believing Dr. Cage committed murder and now Tom is facing prison. Penn will go to any length to prevent this from happening.

As a result, Penn will learn many things about the father, he idolized his whole life and will uncover some of the most horrendous racial crimes committed in Natchez in the mid to late 1960's.

Viola was Tom's nurse during the sixties and she was a beautiful African American woman with whom Tom may have had more than a professional relationship with. While this relationship is at the heart of many personal issues relating to Viola's death, it is also the gateway that leads Penn to investigate the murder of Viola's brother back in the 1960's, right before Viola left for Chicago.

Race crimes in this period of time were certainly not unheard of and were played across the nation, giving Mississippi a reputation it lives with even now. But, those were just the ones that made it into the spotlight. Some of these old cases were never solved. Viola's brother, and a young man that may have been having an affair with a white girl whose father was one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state, are a few examples

. Naturally, the girl's father would go to great lengths to break that up, maybe even murder. In fact, he may have been involved in organizing a top secret group of men that went well beyond anything the KKK ever thought about doing. Now many of those men are approaching the end of their lives and some of them are riddled with guilt and remorse prompting others to take drastic measures to keep them from making death bed confessions. The fear that Viola might tell a few tales makes Penn think someone, and not his father, murdered her.

Penn must deal with his old nemesis, Shad, the D.A., a rogue sheriff, his ambitious fiance, his mother's protective instinct, the shock of his father's past, Tom's refusal to talk about certain things and the knowledge that his father is lying to him. The deeper he digs and the more he unearths of the past, the more danger he and his father are in because someone will do anything to keep the past and all its sins buried.

This type of book is the reason I refuse to hand out five star ratings nilly willy. When a book this good comes along it deserves that honor and only books that really stand out like this one should be given a top rating. Wow! Just Wow!!! The long five year wait for this book felt more like ten years. The last book in the series left us with a bit of a cliff hanger and so fans have been eagerly anticipating resolution. The author used some real life unsolved crimes as a basis for the story. I could almost feel the sticky Mississippi humidity, hear the soft southern drawl, and see the charming town of Natchez and I could absolutely picture the extreme tension of the 1960's when race relations were at the center of everyone's thoughts and terrible, terrible, crimes were committed by closed minded, power hungry, hate filled people. The very idea that a black person and a white person could be in love would most assuredly lead to someone's death. To have that type of a relationship was the riskiest thing you could do. That didn't stop some from going ahead and acting on those feelings. Some would have more to lose than others and some would pay the ultimate price. These forbidden relationships at the center of all the crimes examined in this novel.
While not everything was wrapped up in a neat little bow, there are more installments coming into this series and thankfully there was no big cliffhanger. I personally have held my breath, hoping against hope that Penn will realize he deserves better than the overly ambitions," my career trumps family", Caitlyn. But, we won't get any pat answers here on that front, but I do have a sinking feeling he hasn't seen the back from her yet.

As to certain other issues regarding Tom's past and what could have been, we are left to draw our own conclusions. For sure you will not think of the great Tom Cage in the same way again. He is human after all and of course so is the great Penn Cage.

How all this will play out in the future will certainly be interesting. I can't wait!!!
On a personal note- Greg, it is so good to have you back. I have really missed you!
5 stars
Profile Image for Katrina.
971 reviews
May 17, 2014
This is a suspenseful, mystery novel that loses its punch midway through and, as the violence piles up, loses its believability. Iles created characters that are so worn and clichéd: the heroes being the white, liberal lawyer and newspaper reporter; the villains being southern, white, uneducated bubbas. I found his portrayal of black, female sexuality especially objectionable and stereotypical.
Profile Image for Paula K .
420 reviews424 followers
August 16, 2015
Wow 800 pages and what a ride! Natchez Burning by Greg Iles brings us back to the 1960s in Natchez, Mississippi. His multiple plot twists include the Civil Rights movement, the KKK, the Kennedys, and those involved in committing the crimes and those trying to solve them years later.

Interesting is the story behind Mayor Penn Cage finding out his father, Dr. Tom Cage, beloved by the black and white communities, is not what he seems. I was glad to see the introduction of fiancee Caitlin Masters, publisher and journalist, enter the story line. Mostly men up to that point. Quite enjoyable is Henry Sexton, reporter, and his life-long journey in trying to solve the old crimes.

Natchez Burning, the first of a trilogy, is the first time I've read this author. I'm definitely planning on reading his next book, The Bone Tree, but will wait a while as its probably as long as this one!

Recommended for those that enjoy suspense/thrillers.
A 4 out of 5 stars.

Profile Image for Cathrine ☯️ .
617 reviews338 followers
November 15, 2015

“não” “nee” “neit” “nein” “no"

Oh, I’m sorry. Am I being repetitive? Does that bug you? You might not want to read this for that and numerous other reasons.

A GR 2014 nominee for Mystery & Thriller. Described as an intelligent thriller which is probably why I added it to my tbr and why I had to wait a l-o-n-g time for my turn on Overdrive. What I don’t know and cannot understand is why I finished the 850 pages. Admittedly I was liking the first 400 when the plane started losing power and thrust with the inevitable outcome.

"Everybody’s dead. I mean . . . what was the point?”

Exactly Caitlin, what was it exactly? Except you and Penn don’t die because that would be like killing off Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible series. Most of the others are tortured and mutilated then murdered by flaying, crucifixion, burning, etc., over and over and over again. Pay attention to the title. And the reader’s reward for this? A plot that does not resolve! It’s #1 of a trilogy and the main mysteries are all left hanging. I felt like hanging myself after finishing this. I need a book antidote. I need to create a new shelf: Total Waste Of My Time.
Profile Image for Lin Roberts.
63 reviews
May 14, 2014
I was hoping to like Natchez Burning after deciding to devote time reading through Greg Iles almost 800 page thriller, but I've got some serious issues with this story:
1. Too many loose ends for a novel this size- What happens to Viola's son? Was it purely a Mercy killing? Why was the "good" Doctor cavorting with the Klansmen, as portrayed in the incriminating photo and at the time of the murder?
2. All the positive Black characters get killed off, one notably in effort to save Penn Cage and his fiancé. Sleepy Johnstone returns to Mississippi to avenge his friends murder by a Klansmen after having migrated north to Detroit 30-40 years earlier ?Really.
3. The 2 Black women( Viola, Swan) who had encounters with the 2 "liberal" white guys in the story ( Tom, Henry) are portrayed as the sexual initiators if not aggressors in the relationships.
Think I'll skip the next 2 installments of this trilogy.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jonathan K (Max Outlier).
614 reviews117 followers
September 22, 2020
Unfamiliar with the author, this was a staff pick at the local library; and it's obvious why. Greg Iles, a resident of Natchez, MS is a brilliant storyteller whose life had a plot twist of its own. In light of the recent political climate and rise in hate crimes, the story is particularly relevant. It sheds light on a group that spun off from the KKK, that like the Klan used barbaric, often startling tactics to remove those in the way. The story evolves continually and like any top-tier crime drama builds momentum that steamrolls. Family and friend relationships are highlighted as are the crimes against humanity. Revealing events of the past impact character emotions moving the story forward and twisting the plot. In the early sections I was shocked by the barbarism and mindsets of characters who have been created from reality. Make sure to read the Afterword, which is revealing as is the information about the author. Crime/action isn't my first choice of genre, but I plan to read the others by this author. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Tim.
2,131 reviews200 followers
August 22, 2017
I have liked some of Greg Iles in the past, but this is not one I care for at all. After suffering through this obnoxiously long, repetitive story of brutality, family violence, asinine conspiracy plots, racial violence, kkk and their affiliates, I determined there was no need to waste any more of my time on this. I could not and did not finish because there is absolutely no worthwhile reason to do so. 0 of 10 stars
Profile Image for Kenya Brooks.
33 reviews1 follower
June 26, 2014
Are you kidding, Greg Iles? I just wasted 800 pages of my reading life for about 600 pages of reiterations and NO ENDING! Upon reading the other reviews, I realize this is a first book in a trilogy but you don't leave whole characters completely in the middle of a storyline and just stop writing about them until the next book! No wrap up whatsoever on 1/2 of the main characters! Ridiculous!!! And the worst part is that not only has this book wasted my time, it's also tarnished my credibility because j recommended it to my bookclub based on someone else's recommendation! Ugh!
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,275 reviews558 followers
July 9, 2014
Just too wordy, convoluted, and long-winded for me to give it more than a 3 star. Being a Greg Iles fan, I must say I was disappointed in this book. He's just trying to do too much here, and for me the continuity, tension dissipated more and more as the story line progressed. Others feel differently, I see. I had to force myself to finish this book. It's never happened to me in an Iles book before this.

There are some completely unbelievable factions and facts assumed as related to real history of these times in this book and it makes the entire more than revised to any feeling I might have to be engaged in Penn's outcome or tasks. Almost absurd to the plot too, as being legal processes. Some editors should have stood up to this mess and halved it. Or made sense of the numerous spaghetti shaped noodle characters that fell off the plate, so to speak. Some never seemed to get any sauce, on top of it. Made me wonder why they were so tediously introduced in the first place.

Absolutely will pass on any more of these Penn Cage, that's for sure. It's not worth the effort because if you lived during this era- you know how "off" this book is.

It's closer to a 2 than a 3, but I was generous because he gives locale a voice, distinctly so. But I'm wondering if this IS the same man who wrote before his accident.
Profile Image for Antigone.
500 reviews741 followers
April 8, 2021
And now, a word about pacing.

There are, as I parse it from the seat of an audience member, two sorts of art: the active and the passive. A passive art, for me, would be painting or sculpture. These come with an initial (and often single) impact that shoots the journey inward. The rest of the ride is largely a matter of self-propulsion. It's a trip funded in great part by your psychic dime. An active art, on the other hand (and again from my perspective), would be music or theater or books. These come with a series of ongoing impacts; manipulations, navigations, motivations - from the subtle nudge to the cattle prod. As a journey, it's an externally-guided one. And this is where pacing becomes an issue, because it's no longer under your control.

When we hear about literary pacing it's frequently the fit-and-start complaint. The action slowed, the engine sputtered, the story stalled or completely ground to a halt. As readers, we found ourselves spending an inordinate amount of time shunted to the shoulder of the fictional road. To use a Star Trek metaphor, the author dropped us out of warp. What we hear a lot less about (and, frankly, this has got to change) are those authors who cavitate at Warp Nine from beginning to end. Rare is the tale with substance enough to merit this. (King loses me constantly in the region of page five hundred, where I inevitably end up heaving a breath and downshifting my stride...less interested now in his plot than my somewhat neurotic need to cross his finish line.) Those who've read as many thrillers as I have are certainly familiar with the sense one gets, on a given twist, that there's something thoroughly despotic going on inside of this. For an instant, or two, or fifty-six, it's less about the narrative than it is the domination.

Greg Iles is a man who's going to turn your pages, whether you want him to or not. I would have liked to have spent a little time with some smarter and more compelling characters, but the truth is smarter and more compelling characters don't get into the kind of non-stop trouble that's going to drive a thriller of such prodigious length. You've really kind of got to be a bit thick - at least on Monday, when all the crucial decisions are being made - in order to get that job done. And Penn Cage, mayor of Natchez, is up for just this Monday sort of foolishness. His father, an elderly doctor of the Atticus Finch-stripe, is about to be arrested for euthanizing his dying black nurse...which will crack open some history no one wants to be looking all that closely at. Except, of course, Penn's girlfriend, a local newspaper publisher, who does her very best throughout the course of this novel to make ambition look ugly. And invasive. And disturbingly naive. But, hey, there's action. And more action. And even more action. Because those Mondays keep on coming, and no one's wising up...which I suppose is tough to do when you're running for your life.

Maybe all you need to know here is that this book was so very action-packed I actually had to put it down. Over and over again.
Profile Image for Tom Mathews.
662 reviews
March 21, 2016
I really like Greg Iles' writing style and the world of Penn Cage's Mississippi but, holy cow! Does his publisher pay him by the word? One would think that, given 880 pages in which to do it, an author could tell a complete story. But no. Readers who stick it out and get to the end of Natchez Burning will find that quite a few of the bad guys are still alive and free and that many of the good guys are not. Never fear, though. The Bone Tree is now in the bookstores and after just 816 more pages, Penn Cage will prevail and the Double Eagles and all of their allies will be dead or in jail.


Who knows?

It could be trilogy.

Update: It is.
Profile Image for Tez.
841 reviews218 followers
April 16, 2014
A 791-page tome is a big ask. Especially considering it's a thriller, and the first in a trilogy - is it possible to keep the tension going for so long? Greg Iles is no ordinary writer, and thus he succeeds where others wouldn't.

It's also quite a challenge to write about racism and prejudice, and the author asks all the tough questions, with even more uncomfortable answers. And that's the point: people are often prejudiced, though they don't mean to be. Even thinking of someone as "exotic," and admitting that's part of the allure - this is prejudice, and Tom Cage acknowledges that. In a promotional video, the author says, "No one is immune to prejudice," and this book shows that truth.

This is Mississippi. Even in my high school in far away Australia, studying the film Mississippi Burning was part of the English curriculum. Although the lead characters love Natchez, they know the way the town is run and the things that happen in it are far from perfect. As mayor, Penn Cage does what he can, but even he is way out of his league when dealing with the likes of the Double Eagles and their descendants. What starts as trying to get his father off a murder charge soon becomes just the tip of the iceberg.

And it's horrific to read. But important. Hate crimes, and crimes against those trying to atone for their past, should not be easy to face, should not be swept under the carpet. But in the midst of all this terrible stuff are some real heroes: Albert Norris, whose music shop serves as a secret rendezvous for interracial couples. Henry Sexton, who investigates these cold cases for decades, even though it seriously endangers him and everyone he cares about. And Sleepy Johnston, who could be the key to providing evidence.

Though Penn, Caitlin, and Tom are the lead characters, they are not the real heroes. Not even they are above underhanded tactics to get what they want, and sometimes they are really freaking annoying. But these flaws make them more believable.

And then there's Katy, whose own father punished her for the supposed "crime" of loving a black boy. The repercussions continue, and this subplot is of particular interest to me because of the sanatorium element. Hopefully this is further explored later.

There are no happy endings here, but with time (over the remainder of the trilogy) maybe a little bit of justice can be served. The problem with reading a book as soon as it's released is that it makes the wait until the next novel even longer. But in the hands of Greg Iles, the wait will likely be worth it for readers. Looking forward to The Bone Tree in 2015...
Profile Image for Hannah.
74 reviews7 followers
April 26, 2014
I won an Advanced Reader’s Copy through Goodreads.
At 800 pages, this novel is a tour de force. Penn Cage, former prosecutor and mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, gets drawn into a 40-year-old mystery involving his father, beloved long-time physician Tom Cage.
In powerful, elegant prose, Greg Iles creates a suspenseful mystery concerning racism and its tragic effects on people’s lives. The author doesn’t shy away from portraying the appalling violence and the quest for justice during the Civil Rights Movement and the present time.
The evil characters are counterbalanced by the good, and all of them are well developed and believable. Masterful dialogue, accurate details, and realism on the verge of naturalism all combine into an unflinching portrait of prejudice and brutality.
Profile Image for Erin Clemence.
1,053 reviews311 followers
May 19, 2018
When Penn Cage finds out his beloved father, Dr. Tom Cage, is being charged with the murder of his former nurse, Viola Davis, Penn sets out to fight for his father’s freedom. However, his father is not talking and as he continues his quest for his father’s innocence he begins to uncover deep-rooted, racially-motivated town secrets, secrets that highly influential and powerful people are willing to kill to keep hidden. With the help of his fiancée and local reporter, Henry Sexton, Penn becomes deeply involved in a past full of greed, hatred and murder- but how far will he go to defend his father’s innocence?

I have had Greg Illes’ “Natchez Burning” on my bookshelf for awhile, as the size of the book was so daunting. However, the 788 page book was definitely worth the read.

A new reader to Illes, I came into this book on Goodreads recommendations alone, and did not know what to expect. “Natchez Burning” is a novel ripe with racial hatred and the immoral motives of powerful people. Tom Cage is a great character, willing to put his life on the line in order to assuage his feelings of guilt. Penn is a dedicated son who uses every ounce of bravery he has to take on The Double Eagles (a subsection of the KKK) almost entirely on his own. Caitlin, Penn’s fiancée, was slightly less likable, but with 788 pages to work with, even she grew on me.

Well written with a powerful plot, Illes tells a story that has a little bit of everything- from action, to suspense, to romance, to murder and dirty cops. Each character is so different, yet worth cheering for, and the ending brings about sweet justice and is delectably satisfying.

I look forward to the other two novels in Illes’ trilogy, although I will have to set aside a large chunk of time to work my way through their lengthy pages.
Profile Image for Cynthia Hamilton.
Author 18 books196 followers
November 17, 2019
When I downloaded this book by Greg Iles, I didn’t realize I was jumping into the middle of a series. By the time I figured that out, I was too engrossed to turn back. Fortunately, I never felt as though I was missing something. In truth, had I felt that way, I still wouldn’t have been able to pull myself away from the story. It was fascinating from the first page, terrifying and brutal when focused on horrors that we all know have existed during that time, but are still too atrocious to wrap one’s head around.

What saved the book from being too graphic were the chapters that focused on the protagonist and his family. This is definitely a book of contrasts, of good versus evil, of love versus hate, and forgiveness and acceptance versus revenge. Penn Cage balances his responsibilities as mayor of Natchez with his duty to his daughter, his father and his fiancée, while walking a tightrope over the yawning chasm of bigotry and savage murders that had remained unsolved for decades.

The heart of this book, in my opinion, was all the vividly drawn characters who stood up against organized hate and racism. What held the heart was superb writing that expertly wove together so many different storylines, I was truly in awe of the author’s ability to keep it all straight! I will definitely be reading more by this very talented author.
Profile Image for Deb.
39 reviews
July 25, 2014
The book was advertised as bridging the gap between popular fiction and fine literature. Don't you believe it. The characters are two dimensional. There's a cliche on every page. There are few descriptions of what the male characters look like but plenty of time describing the women's sexual attributes. One of the primary characters is described by everyone as near saint like yet he bumbles through the book making decisions that place people in emotional turmoil or physical danger and then caps the decision with "I didn't have a choice." Please. I couldn't find a single character that I admired, identified with or understood their behavior or inner process.

Specific to the audiobook version, the reader is an abomination. He dramatically draws out one word in every sentence. "Sit down in this CHAAAIR."

Don't care what happens in the end. I'm done with this clunker.
Profile Image for Susan.
510 reviews1 follower
May 27, 2014
My grandmother was from Neshoba County -- referenced several times in this novel -- and I had high hopes. This could have been a good book if it had received more judicious editing. Instead, every theory about all the civil rights issues in Mississippi and Louisiana were contained in this bloated, over-long novel. Sensationalism, super-humans... ridiculous and unbelievable. I have enjoyed Mr. Iles' other books, but will pass on the rest of this trilogy.
1 review1 follower
August 5, 2014
Not worth the time it takes to read this ridiculously long novel. The plot has too many holes, many subplots are left unresolved. The climatic scene strains believability. I think I'll pass on the sequels.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews992 followers
February 3, 2014
To be Published 13th March by Harper Collins

Thank you THANK YOU to Kate and Bob at Killer Reads for the advance copy. Probably THE best book post I have ever had.

Penn Cage is facing a son’s worst nightmare – having his father stand accused of murder. Worse, each effort to defend the legendary Dr Tom Cage unearths new, shocking secrets, leaving Penn to question whether he ever really knew his father at all.

So for those of you who have not read the previous Penn Cage novels from Greg Iles (the first being “The Quiet Game” ) I would encourage you to do so, however you CAN start here – the first part of a planned trilogy featuring the character, as there is enough information for a new reader without actually spoiling the previous books.

There are reasons why this is one of the best “presents” I have received since reviewing seriously – a few years back I read the last Penn Cage novel, “The Devils Punchbowl” which was as brilliantly addictive as all the rest. When it ended there was a hint, a taster if you like, for what might happen next. In the notes Mr Iles told us that, unusually, there would be a further Penn Cage novel the following year (usually there is a bigger gap – he also writes TREMENDOUSLY gripping standalone books and never actually intended to write a series but Penn wouldnt go away) then of course disaster struck. Mr Iles was involved in a serious accident – all that mattered after that was recovery. I, for one, am extremely grateful that recover he did over a period of time, otherwise the world would have lost another great writer on top of the obvious horror of personal loss for his family.I prayed. I’m sure his other readers did as well. And now here we are..

And what a glorious, once again addictive, seriously mind blowing read we have here. Absolutely gripping. A deeply involving story about the effects and events surrounding racial tension in the Deep South Mr Iles blends fact and fiction with terrific effect. Past leaks into present with terrifying results and as well as being a most fascinating tale, for this reader it was also an education. These subjects are dealt with in previous books but for me this was a revelation.

On top of all that, there is the well drawn, compelling story of the relationship between father and son. Tom Cage is a local hero, known as a moral man, loved by many, the backbone of his community and a much admired Doctor. He grew up during the troubled times where the colour of your skin determined how you were treated, viewed, what you were allowed to do with your life, where you could eat, sleep, drink. Always assuming him to be on the side of truth and justice, Penn has always had the greatest love and affection for his Dad and an instinctive trust about who he is. All that is about to be thrown up into the air, who knows where the pieces will land or what will be left of this trust when it is all over.

Amazing. The only word that springs to mind. As dark secrets begin to emerge, you will be swept along with the sheer beauty of the writing, the absolute emotion of each moment and often sitting on the edge of your seat awaiting answers to, frankly, unanswerable questions about the way human beings treat each other. Will Tom Cage ultimately turn out to be exactly who Penn thought he was? Or is he as fallible as the rest…

I am in awe. And I cannot wait for the next part of the story, it has buried itself deep within my reading soul and I imagine that overall this is one that will stay with me for life.

Read it. Love it. Live it.

Happy Reading Folks!
Profile Image for Luanne Ollivier.
1,678 reviews86 followers
April 30, 2014
I've read everything Greg Iles has ever written - he's an incredibly talented wordsmith. His novels are all quite different but with one similarity - they're addicting reads. (And bestsellers as well)

His latest book Natchez Burning has just released and it's an absolutely fantastic read - easily his best novel yet. It's been a while coming - Iles nearly died in an auto accident five years ago.

Natchez Burning is the fourth book to feature lawyer Penn Cage, now the mayor of Natchez, Mississippi.

Present day - Penn's father, Tom, the town doctor for over fifty years has been accused of murdering a black woman who was his nurse in the 1960's. Tom is known and loved by all of his patients, black and white. And Tom knows his father - there's no way he would have done such a thing. Penn is determined to clear Tom's name - even as Tom refuses to rise to his own defense. Penn's search for answers takes him back to...

"...1964, with three murders. Three stones cast into a pond no one had cared about since the siege of Vicksburg, but which was soon to become the centre of the world's attention. A place most people in the United States like to think was somehow different from the rest of the country, but which was in fact the very incarnation of America's tortured soul. Mississippi."

A splinter group of the Klan, calling themselves the Double Eagles, has been operating in Natchez for over fifty years, manipulating, controlling, killing and conspiring in this southern State. They're driven by hate and greed, with no intention of ever stopping. But Violet's death is the tipping point. Secrets buried and kept for a half century threaten to take down anyone and everyone - black and white.

Where to start? Each and every character Iles brings to the page is fully developed and the reader can't help but become engaged (or disgusted) with every player. I've been a fan of Penn Cage from the first book, but found other favourites in Natchez Burning. I quiet enjoyed Tom, described as Atticus Finch with a medical degree. Iles explores the relationship between Penn and his father, as every belief he holds about Tom is put to the test in Natchez Burning. But my favourite was Henry, the newspaper reporter who has been pursuing the Double Eagles for many years.

"Fate doesn't let men choose their wars. Or even their battles, sometimes. But one resolute man can sometime accomplish remarkable things against overwhelming odds."

Although Penn is the main voice of this novel, other characters are given a turn and we see the past and present from many differing views. Natchez Burning does not shy away from the violence that is the truth of this time and place. Gentle readers, there are some disturbing scenes and descriptions that may not be for you. Iles based his novel on actual events that occurred in Ferriday, Louisiana.

Natchez Burning is powerful, gripping, thrilling, sweeping and simply spectacular - 800+ pages that flew by for this reader. Absolutely, positively recommended. Natchez Burning is the first of a trilogy. I'll be waiting and watching for the second book - The Bone Tree - due out in 2015.
Profile Image for Adam Light.
Author 21 books250 followers
June 30, 2015
Greg Iles serves up another complex, engrossing, and suspenseful chapter in the Penn Cage series. If you are a fan of Iles, you should definitely read this book. If you haven't read him yet, then what are you waiting for?
Profile Image for Suzy.
775 reviews249 followers
October 17, 2015
I was immersed in this riveting story of heinous crimes both past and present in Natchez, Mississippi. It has bad guys, very bad guys, and good guys, who struggle with right and wrong as they work toward justice and protecting themselves and their loved ones. Told over the course of 3 days in 2005, it tells of present day corruption and crime and reflects on several racially motivated murders of the 1960's during that supercharged era. A few people in Natchez and nearby towns in Louisiana are trying to expose the perpetrators of those past murders while they are still living so justice can be served.

Penn Cage, Mayor of Natchez, is working diligently over these 3 days to absolve his father, Dr. Tom Cage, of the murder of his former nurse Viola, who has returned to Natchez to die after many years in Chicago. Dr. Cage is a long-time pillar of the community, but Penn discovers things aren't so clear cut when it comes to his father's involvement and things only become murkier as his investigation into his father's past deepens. It doesn't help that some of the murderers hold high places in the business community and State Police force and wield their power in terrifying ways.

Atmospheric and action packed, I had a hard time putting this down. I might have a quibble or two with the last 20% of the book, but too minor to mention. I thought David Ledoux was the perfect choice of narrator.

114 reviews1 follower
May 17, 2014
WOW!!! Welcome back, Mr. Iles!
This novel takes a hard look into father/ son relationships and the realization by son that Dad isn't the perfect man Son projected him to be.
Most important, Mr. Iles tackles the state of racism during the 1960's and shows us how little it has changed 50 years later. Not many would take on this subject as head on as has Mr. Iles. I tip my hat to him.
I've read many reviewers take to task the fact that many questions and characters went unanswered. I do not understand this take, as it has been widely publicized that this is book one of a trilogy. I have no doubt that the next two books will answer all these open doors and more. Isn't that the beauty of a trilogy, the answers will come. A writer as gifted as Mr. Iles will tease us up until the very end, until that "uhh huh" moment when all will become clear. I for one, can hardly wait to find that moment, especially where Shad fits into all of this.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,222 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.