In anticipation of the final book’s release this winter, Harper Collins is hosting a global readalong with 26 bloggers worldwide starting from the very beginning. I am so excited to have been asked to be a part of this blog tour for Natchez Burning, the first book in Greg Iles’ latest trilogy. Check out my thoughts on this first installment below, and be sure to stop by the past posts in the blog tour, as well as onto the next stop over at Civilian Reader tomorrow!
A former prosecutor, Penn Cage is now mayor of Natchez, the small Mississippi town he grew up in. His father, a well-respected doctor, has been accused of murdering his former nurse, an African-American woman he worked with in the 60’s. In an attempt to clear his father’s name, Penn uncovers a much larger conspiracy of corruption and murder involving the Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK, that spans decades.
I had no idea the sheer size of this book until it arrived. In all honesty, at 788 pages, I don’t know if I would have normally picked up this book if I wasn’t part of the Harper Collins global blog tour but I am so glad that this series has been introduced to me. What might have seemed daunting was actually a fairly quick read. I initially struggled a bit during part one – the part set in the 60’s – as it seemed similar in theme to another book I had just finished, but once it jumped into “present day” (2005), the story really started coming together and picked up for me.
Bringing in historical elements, Iles has woven an intricate story that is rich in detail. The threads of intrigue go wide and deep into the disturbing past of the country during the 60’s, linking conspiracies with infamous events in U.S. history. I loved seeing the story develop and unfold before my eyes, as actual historical figures and events are intertwined with Iles’ fictional plot.
While I love the development of some of the main characters in this story, I do feel a bit dismayed at the small amount of females in this town, apparently. Other than Caitlin, Penn’s fiancée and editor of the major Natchez newspaper, all other women in this book had very small, stereotypical roles: nurse, nurse, another nurse, sister, gossip, mother, daughter. Even then, Caitlin had a stronger personality yet she was not written in a necessarily positive light a lot of the time. Not that I think female characters need to be likable, but her “strength” and determination often came across as abrasive, ruthless and tactless to me. Given all that they were going through, two of the women still found time amidst the crimes to discuss weddings and babies.
That being said, I still very much enjoyed the first book in this trilogy. The narrative continues to propel the story forward and even though I had just read almost 800 pages of this book, I could not wait to start the second one, The Bone Tree, as soon as I finished this one. Iles states in the afterword that while the novel is entirely fictional, many of the crimes were based on unsolved race murders that occurred in the 1960’s. It’s eye-opening and horrifying to consider that, yet it is a reality to many. Natchez Burning provides enough of a conclusion to leave readers satisfied, but also keeps other stories open to continue on in the second installment. Look for my review on The Bone Tree on Monday!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (4.5 /5 stars)
Available: March 13, 2014
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A free copy of this book was provided by Harper Collins Canada in exchange for an honest review as part of the Greg Iles Natchez Burning Trilogy tour.