Natchez Burning, a worthwhile marathon

Do reviews count? When it comes to an 800+ pager like the Southern scorcher by #Greg_Iles, #Natchez_Burning, the more than 2,000 five star reviews that described an engaging #thriller proved the clincher.

The reviewers steered me true with this astonishing tale set in Natchez, Mississippi where native son Penn Cage has quit the big city and his job as prosecutor for the seemingly less stressful life as mayor of his hometown.

It didn’t occur to me that I had committed to much more than an 800-page read. When I flipped to the final pages of the book, only then did I realize that Natchez Burning was the prologue – a very long and wonderful prologue – but a prologue for the next two (presumably equally long) books.

The individual volumes in many series can stand on their own with a few unanswered questions and perhaps a cliff-hanger. With Natchez Burning everything’s ablaze at the end.

In this case, ignorance is bliss. I may not have opened the book knowing I was into a 2,400+ page marathon but a marathon it is and a very welcome one.

Iles is a spellbinding storyteller who takes threads from horrific historical events – racially motivated murders, the #JFK_assassination, the Klu Klux Klan, organized crime, and weaves them flawlessly into the present day lives of the denizens of Natchez.

I flew through the book with increasing anxiety for the fate of the key characters.

Dr. Tom Cage, Penn’s father, disappears after being sought in the death of Viola, a former nurse, suffering from terminal cancer who sought his help to end her life.

Penn’s beautiful fiancé Caitlin Masters, publisher of the local daily newspaper, is hell bent on printing dark secrets from Natchez’s past.

Henry, an investigative reporter for a competing weekly newspaper, has uncovered the truth behind several racial murders after years of painstaking work.

And then there’s Penn himself. He’s under attack on multiple fronts because of his attempts to protect his father.

The local district attorney is seeking to charge Dr. Cage with murder in Viola’s death, a means he thinks to fulfill his political ambitions to unseat Penn as mayor.

Corrupt cops have Penn in their crosshairs to protect their secrets and agenda.

The Silver Eagles, an ultra-violent off-shoot of the KKK, will snuff Penn if he interferes in their hunt for Dr. Cage because of his knowledge of their crimes.

And Viola’s son appears claiming Dr. Cage killed his mother to cover up an affair that resulted in his birth.

Mix in murder, hatred, hideous evil-doers and you have a world-changing vortex with Natchez at its epicenter.

Definitely a five-star read and worth suiting up for The Bone Tree, the next leg in the marathon.

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