top of page
Top of Blog
Exotic refreshing cocktails next to book and straw hat by the pool on vacation._edited.jpg
  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Natchez Burning

natchez burning


Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 4/29/2014

Series: Penn Cage #4

Format: Audio

My Rating: 5 Stars +

An American writer at the height of his creative powers, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated book yet, and his first in five years—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.

Raised in the historic southern splendor of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows of honor and duty from his father, Dr. Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor and pillar of the community has been accused of murdering Viola Turner, 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 to even 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 waiting to tear their family apart. More chilling, this long-buried sin is only a single thread in a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the wealthiest and 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?Drenched in southern atmosphere,

Natchez Burning marks the brilliant return of a genuine American master of suspense. Tense, disturbing, and filled with electrifying plot twists, this novel commences the most explosive and ambitious story Greg Iles has ever written.

My Review

Wow! While listening to this gripping, intense thriller NATCHEZ BURNING (Penn Cage #4) audiobook—I continued to ask myself, “why haven’t I read more of by Greg Iles”? Immediately, I begin checking my WANT TO READ LIST for all Iles’ Penn Cage Books in the Trilogy, which I missed, plus others to get the full details of Tom and Penn. Amazing and brilliant writing! I have only read one of Greg’s books, THIRD DEGREE, some years ago, and when I began reading all the rave reviews of NATCHEZ BURNING – knew I had to purchase the audiobook—Greg, does not disappoint! I would highly recommend the audiobook, as you definitely get your money’s worth with (35 hrs./ 53 minutes) in 5 downloads of pure adrenaline, heart pounding action and suspense (800 pages, if you choose different format). The narrator, David Ledoux, was superb, and found myself hanging on his every word! Where to start when reviewing such an epic novel, without giving any hints or spoilers. This book can be a standalone; however, I so look forward to reading the earlier books to find out more about these exciting, yet mysterious characters. And, oh will definitely pre-order #5 THE BONE TREE and #6 UNWRITTEN LAW in the Penn Cage series. The author mentions: THE QUIET GAME, the novel in which Penn Cage first appeared, and which many readers believe is his best book. BLOOD MEMORY, was written before TURNING ANGEL, Penn’s father Tom Cage appears there in a supporting role; however, he recommends, BLOOD MEMORY after THE QUIET GAME, as appears you will appreciate Tom much more. Penn Cage is a former prosecutor and Mayor of Natchez, Mississippi. The Penn Cage series “involves all the quintessentially Southern themes—family, racial violence, ‘miscegenation,’ honor, hypocrisy, and the quest for justice in an unfair society…” Iles was involved in a horrific car crash in 2011 which resulted in a ruptured aorta, a medically induced coma and the partial amputation of one leg—can only imagine the long road back ---What a comeback,brining his fans a 5 Star Winner! As Iles promised back in 2009, the hero is, once again, Penn Cage, the lawyer who first appeared in “The Quiet Game” (1999). A former prosecutor for the Houston district attorney’s office, Penn, along with his daughter, Annie, returned to his childhood home in Natchez, MS, following his wife’s death from cancer. He came hoping to find peace and a fresh start, but instead became embroiled in a series of violent investigations that illuminated the darker side of life in Natchez, past and present. Determined to help restore the struggling city, Penn changed professions once again and ran successfully for mayor, the position he holds as this new novel begins. A lot to take in, so you will need to buckle up, keep up with the characters, and virtually everything that follows from beginning to end (as hang on for the ride of your life)! In 1968 there are murders of two black civil rights activists, Luther Davis and Jimmy Revels, and the brutal gang rape of Revels’s sister Viola. These and other atrocities were carried out by the Double Eagles, an ultra-violent splinter group of the Ku Klux Klan that plays an increasingly significant role in this saga. The narrative begins in 2005, with Viola, who moved to Chicago, after the 1968 assault, is suffering from lung cancer and has returned to Natchez to die. When her death occurs under questionable circumstances, suspicion falls on Tom Cage, Penn’s father and a revered local physician who has served all levels of Natchez society for decades. The widespread belief that Tom and Viola were once lovers lends substance to the suspicion that he was personally involved in her death. When Tom, racked by private guilt, refuses to defend himself, Penn initiates his own investigation, one that leads directly to the hidden, still hazardous secrets of 40 years before. Among those who assist Penn in his quest for the truth are two dynamic journalists from different generations. Caitlin Masters, Penn’s fiancée, a Pulitzer Prize winner whose need to pursue a breaking story frequently conflicts with Penn’s more personal agenda. Henry Sexton is a small-town reporter who has spent the bulk of his career gathering evidence on the unsolved crimes of the civil rights era. Henry is one of Iles’s most vivid, credible characters, and his obsessive search for dangerous truths provides the novel with both its wider historical context and its moral center. There is so much to this novel, covering topics such as loyalty to one’s family versus loyalty to truth and justice, cost of professional ambition, and sexual relations between the races. More importantly, the pervasive impact of past events and ones refusing to remain buried. 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. NATCHEZ BURNING is itself an embodiment of a famous statement by William Faulkner, a statement that has found its way into Iles’ novel: “The past is never dead; it’s not even past. If it were, there would be no grief or sorrow.” Our nation’s hidden secrets and sins come front and center with one of the best--- Iles has come back from a near-fatal accident to produce his most searching and ambitious work to date. NATCHEZ BURNING obliterates the artificial distinction between genre and literary fiction with passion, grace and considerable style. Greg Iles at his BEST – his faithful fans, as well as new readers, will welcome him back with open arms, with this incredible journey into the dark past which proves "Truth is rarely pure and never simple." Oscar Wilde!

Review Links:

About the Author

Greg Iles was born in Germany in 1960, where his father ran the US Embassy Medical Clinic during the height of the Cold War. Iles spent his youth in Natchez, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1983. While attending Ole Miss, Greg lived in the cabin where William Faulkner and his brothers listened to countless stories told by “Mammy Callie,” their beloved nanny, who had been born enslaved.

Iles wrote his first novel in 1993, a thriller about Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess, which became the first of seventeen New York Times bestsellers. Primarily set in the Deep South, his later novels have been made into films, translated into more than twenty languages, and published in more than thirty-five countries worldwide. His new novel will continue the story of Penn Cage, after the epic trilogy that ended with New York Times #1 bestseller Mississippi Blood.

Iles is a member of the legendary lit-rock group “The Rock Bottom Remainders.” Like bandmate Stephen King, Greg returned to the musical stage after recovering from his injuries, and joined the band for their "final" two shows in Los Angeles in 2012. A nonfiction memoir by the band, titled Hard Listening, was published in 2018, but by then the band had begun playing shows again. In 2020 they released a social-distancing video produced by Greg and his son Mark, called "Don't Stand By Me!" They just don't know when to quit.​

Iles lives in Natchez, Mississippi with his wife Caroline and has three children. WEBSITE






bottom of page