Greg Iles’ latest, “Mississippi Blood,” which hits book stores Tuesday is his sixth novel in the Penn Cage series and the final in a voluminous trilogy that started with “Natchez Burning.” “The Bone Tree” followed.
The third is the best of the bunch.
It is a fabulous story with so many different themes, which all of his novels contain. Love, betrayal, murder, sadness, racism, adultery, hatred and revenge, with a bit of history thrown in.
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Penn Cage, the lawyer turned novelist and now mayor of Natchez, has the world crumbling around him. His fiancée has died and his father is in jail and about to go through a murder trial that will expose not only his family’s deepest secrets but also the vile racial issues that have plagued Mississippi since the 1960s.
Penn’s father has been a pillar of the community for decades. A well-respected doctor who treated both whites and blacks with equal compassion, Dr. Tom Cage has been charged with murder of his longtime nurse.
The nurse, Viola Turner, was black, as was Dr. Cage’s lover.
Dr. Cage’s illegitimate son, also a lawyer who was raised in Chicago, is bitter and vindictive.
He helped bring the charges against his father along with an ambitious but misguided district attorney. The DA was beaten by Penn Cage in the recent mayoral race, which adds another element to the story.
Tom Cage has refused to let his son help in his legal defense and is determined to go through with the trial and face the jury’s decision, guilty or not.
Meanwhile, the state’s horrific racial history is another key element in the trilogy. The Ku Klux Klan terrorized the state during the ’60s and a splinter group, the Double Eagles, have carried on their despicable acts more than 40 years later. In a complex twist, Dr. Cage and the savage group hold some key secrets that involve the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy.
With seemingly nothing left to lose, Penn teams up with former soldier turned author, Serenity Butler, to uncover the truth behind the secrets and prevent his family and life from unraveling.
Penn and Serenity’s relationship also takes an interesting turn. A flashback in more ways than one.
One of Iles’ greatest strengths as a writer is being able to take all of the previously listed subjects and weave them together to present a gripping story that keeps you turning page after page deep into the night.
Racial issues seem to be woven into the fabric of this Mississippi tale, and Iles doesn’t shy away from that issue.
A quote from one of the characters in the novel sums up what is going on here:
“I know things are changing. But they don’t change everywhere at the same speed. Down here time moves on a different clock. Down here it’s still 40 years ago, in some ways.”
Iles’ latest is the conclusion to a phenomenal trilogy. It is full of suspense and so much more. Just what his fans have waited for.
Arthur Jaramillo 228-896-2357
‘Mississippi Blood: A Novel’ (Natchez Burning)
by Greg Iles
William Morrow (March 21)