Wm Morrow/Harper Collins, $27.99, 791 pages, ISBN 978-0-0-231107-8
The nineteen-sixties was the decade that came close to ripping the fabric of society of the United States of America into small pieces and tossing them to the four winds. It was a time of unrest, when ages-old values were questioned, ages-old wrongs were held to light, fought over and started to be corrected by brave men and women fighting for their civil rights . . . and it was a time in which small groups of racially-motivated bigots espousing an agenda founded on the principals of rage, hate and so-called racial superiority terrorized the nation with bombings and assassinations. The epicenter for this civil rights movement was Birmingham, Alabama . . . but right next door in Mississippi, the night riders were just as active, the bombs just as powerful, and the struggle just as devastating. The fear was so palpable that it was felt around the world, and the repercussions of it are still being felt today.
Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles is his first novel in a number of years, and well worth the wait. It is an incredible work of contemporary fiction, a thriller extraordinaire, and a timeless classic in the making. The novel is the first in a trilogy featuring a character named Penn Cage. He’s the present day mayor of Natchez and a former federal prosecutor, the only son of a beloved local doctor, who has been the family physician for most of the city since the 1950s. He’s trying, but finding it almost impossible to retire. Now, he’s been accused of murdering Viola Turner, an African-American nurse he worked with in the 1960s, by an ambitious black District Attorney. Penn is determined to save his father, but Dr. Tom Cage refuses to help defend himself, citing Doctor-Patient confidentiality, forcing Penn to dig into his father’s history during the civil rights conflict, where he finds unsettling clues and conflicting evidence. Watching from the shadows are the same ultra-violet racists who operated with impunity during the 60s . . . who want the secrets of their past to stay dead and buried . . . who will do anything to protect their past crimes, as well as their present day criminal enterprises.
The pace is relentless, the action never stops and the tension builds with every chapter of this novel you won’t be able to stop reading. It’s just relentless . . . and so damn good!!