If anyone asks me how I spent my Labor Day weekend, I can reply with two words: Natchez Burning. Greg Iles' novel is the first in a trilogy featuring Penn Cage, a character from some of Iles' other novels.
Natchez Burning is a hefty novel - 789 pages - but it is well worth the time it took to read.
The story is interesting and suspenseful and full of details (which pretty much translates into "no skimming allowed").
Penn Cage is the mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, and the son of a prominent, respected doctor. He narrates much of the story, although the beginning of the novel starts with the owner of a music store hiding a man from the KKK for sleeping with a white man's daughter.
That scene from the 1960s is what drives the rest of the novel as the murders of several black men go unsolved. Henry, a reporter, has been investigating these deaths for years, keeping detailed notes. Penn is drawn into events as his father, Tom, is charged with the murder of his long-time nurse, already on her death bed. The relationship that Tom had with Viola, his former African American nurse, comes to the forefront as Viola comes back to Natchez to die.
To complicate matters Viola's brother, Jimmy Revels, is one of the men that was involved in the Civil Rights movement, and whose body has never been found after he was killed.
Penn has a position of importance in Natchez, serving as the mayor of the city. Other influential men play an important role in Natchez as well, having had a hand in the elimination of several young men, most specifically those black men who were murdered in the 1960s.
With this novel weighing in at nearly 800 pages, I couldn't imagine Iles not getting everything tied up by book's end. However, this story is complex and detailed and there are several loose ends that will no doubt be explored in the second novel, The Bone Tree.
As I've mentioned reading this to friends and on Litsy, the overwhelming consensus is that this novel is great and worth every minute it takes to read it. My husband has also begun Natchez Burning, starting it before I began reading, and has commented several times as I was reading how much he was also enjoying it.
Natchez Burning is a novel that should appeal to most readers - even those who might question their ability to get through an 800 page novel should give it a try. I don't think anyone who reads this will be disappointed.
TLC Book Tours was kind enough to provide a copy for review. All opinions expressed are, as always, my own.