NATCHEZ BURNING by Greg ILES (a review)

(This is part of a TLC Book Tour)
Natchez Burning is an ambitious novel (the first of a trilogy) of close to 800 pages, and to make it justice I would need to write a much longer review, almost an analysis or a short thesis. I don't have the time to do this, and you certainly wouldn't be interested in reading it either. But for those who don't want to read even a short review and are only interested in knowing if a book is good or not, well, hell yeah this is a great novel! Go buy it without waiting for my (or anyone else's) assessment of it. With Natchez Burning, Greg Iles has written a memorable saga that is both suspenseful and engrossing; it kept me awake when I should have been asleep, and it held my interest even during my favourite team's (the Montréal Canadiens) playoffs games (which can also be filled with very stressful moments).
Natchez Burning is for anyone who enjoys a story that goes back and forth in time and in different eras. This is for those who enjoy a novel filled with rich, realistic characters that seem to move on their own and leap out of the page; and also for anyone who enjoys a quest for the truth and for justice, whatever the era or the country.
In Iles's novel, Penn Cage, lawyer and mayor of Natchez (Mississippi), wants to help his father, Doctor Tom Cage, who's accused of the recent murder of Viola Turner, a former nurse who worked with him in the 1960s. She was black, he's white; they might have had an affair, and possibly a child together. Penn needs to find the truth about his father's past. The problem? Doctor Cage doesn't want his son's help; instead, he calls on an old friend from his time in Korea as a war medic.
Mixed in all of this is the story of Henry Sexton, a journalist who spent his entire career researching events from Natchez's darkest time, when the Ku Klux Klan was still very much active. The KKK, which objective was mostly regional, in Mississippi, spawned a group called The Double Eagles; these men, who fought for the US during the Korean War, were looking at a much bigger picture. They played a greater role in the scheme of things; taking the law into their own hands, they took control everywhere they wanted to, always receiving support and some direction from those with money and ambition.
Through the years, Henry Sexton has amassed thousands of pages of information, plus many interviews and photos linking these influential business men, politicians, and cops to racial murders. They let him because he was a small time journalist and while he sometimes wrote articles about Natchez's past, he never implicated anyone specifically. He was waiting for all the clues that would unearth the whole chain of events, implicating everyone, the 'big guys' at the top included; then he would write his big story. So he was never a threat to anyone until recent events uncovered some crucial elements that can now complete his research. He's just become a threat; but the Double Eagles know how to deal with a threat.
I can't say more. And I haven't told you the half of it. At close to 800 pages, I found that a few parts could have been edited out, mostly where some info is passed on the reader more than once (or where the urgency of Doctor Cage's situation is underlined a little too much). Aside from that, Iles shows his writing abilities by describing the worst and the best of what humans are capable of; from scenes of extreme violence to the beautiful narration of a love story. You'll be swept up by the passion of Iles's writing, and you'll be emotionnally involved in the story through its themes of racism, of greed, of love, and of justice. One of the more complete novels I've read in the past five years.

If the next two books of the trilogy are as good as this one, the series will become a classic.
Rating: 4 thumbprints
Rating system:
1 = not good (but you won't see many of those because I hate wasting time on negativity)
2 = not bad (but one or two major flaws; I probably wouldn't recommend reading it)
3 = great book (some flaws but none major)
4 = very entertaining (missing a little something to make it 5)
5 = excellent (will become a classic on my list of all-time favourites)
You can visit Greg Iles on his website, on Facebook or Twitter, etc.
May 19th



  1. Agree with everything you say, Jacques. It is an excellent book and with a touch more editing would have been even better.

  2. Ooh, a classic series in the making - sounds fantastic!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  3. I'm looking forward to starting this one! Am now building up a back-up of shorter books so I have things to post on my blog while I read it!