2019 Book 66: CEMETERY ROAD by Greg Iles

Cemetery Road by Greg Iles
ISBN: 9780062824615 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062824639 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062824646 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07B7L4QMF (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow 
Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Sometimes the price of justice is a good man’s soul.

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Natchez Burning trilogy returns with an electrifying tale of friendship, betrayal, and shattering secrets that threaten to destroy a small Mississippi town.

“[A] compulsively readable thriller… Iles once again delivers a sweeping tale of family dysfunction, sexually charged secrets, and the power of wealth, with an overlay of violence and Southern sensibility.”   — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

When Marshall McEwan left his Mississippi hometown at eighteen, he vowed never to return. The trauma that drove him away spurred him to become one of the most successful journalists in Washington, DC. But as the ascendancy of a chaotic administration lifts him from print fame to television stardom, Marshall discovers that his father is terminally ill, and he must return home to face the unfinished business of his past.

On arrival, he finds Bienville, Mississippi very much changed. His family’s 150-year-old newspaper is failing; and Jet Turner, the love of his youth, has married into the family of Max Matheson, one of a dozen powerful patriarchs who rule the town through the exclusive Bienville Poker Club. To Marshall’s surprise, the Poker Club has taken a town on the brink of extinction and offered it salvation, in the form of a billion-dollar Chinese paper mill. But on the verge of the deal being consummated, two murders rock Bienville to its core, threatening far more than the city’s economic future.

An experienced journalist, Marshall has seen firsthand how the corrosive power of money and politics can sabotage investigations. Joining forces with his former lover—who through her husband has access to the secrets of the Poker Club—Marshall begins digging for the truth behind those murders. But he and Jet soon discover that the soil of Mississippi is a minefield where explosive secrets can destroy far more than injustice. The South is a land where everyone hides truths: of blood and children, of love and shame, of hate and murder—of damnation and redemption. The Poker Club’s secret reaches all the way to Washington, D.C., and could shake the foundations of the U.S. Senate. But by the time Marshall grasps the long-buried truth about his own history, he would give almost anything not to have to face it.

Marshall McEwan doesn’t see himself as a liberal, moderate, or conservative. He’s a journalist and his job is to reveal the truth and tell the whole story. Or at least that’s what he thought before he won the Pulitzer and he realized that it’s possible to become a success by omitting part of the story, even if that omission was done to protect a friend that was protecting your own life. After living the life of a renowned journalist in Washington D.C., Marshall has to return to Mississippi because of his father’s failing health. It is Bienville, MS that Marshall’s life begins to unravel all while seeking out the truth surrounding his surrogate father’s death or rather murder. Bienville stands to rise from the ashes with the building of a new paper mill, highway, and other businesses. The people and the region will prosper for not one or two years but possibly decades because of this deal, but is the deal worth the life of one man? As Marshall delves into the circumstances surrounding his friend’s murder, his own secret social life is about to be revealed as he’s having an affair with his high school girlfriend, his married high school girlfriend. Adding insult to injury, she’s married to the man that saved his life when he was embedded with the military. Marshall’s father is dying and other than occasional visits, he doesn’t really talk to him because he feels that his father still blames him for this older brother’s tragic death over 30 years ago. For the first time in a long time, Marshall is forced to face his feelings and memories from his past. He’s also forced to confront his current actions and their consequences. Can he face the past and deal with the present without destroying any hopes for a joyous future? Can he uncover the truth about his friend’s murder without completely derailing the future of his town? Will the “powers-that-be” allow him to walk away from his search for the truth or will there be dire consequences to his attempts to reveal their secrets whilst keeping his own hidden?

If you’ve read any of my past blog reviews, you probably know that I adore Greg Iles and love reading his books. I was so excited when he revealed the news about Cemetery Road and doubly excited when I received my review copy to read (thank you again William Morrow Books). If it weren’t for migraine interference, I would have read Cemetery Road in one day. (Yes, it was just that engrossing.) Sadly, weather-induced migraine headaches forced me to slow down quite a bit and it took several days to complete this book. Now, I’m rather pleased that I was forced to slow my read and savor the multiple complex storylines, complicated relationships, and deeply flawed yet realistic characters. It was intriguing to read about a Southern town about to be reborn because of a new industry. I live in Appalachia and there are plenty of towns dying or dead due to loss of an industry that would similarly welcome a new business, no matter what. Although I could empathize with the needs of the town and region for new growth and industry, I could also empathize with Marshall’s need to uncover the truth about a murder and then do whatever he could to try to protect his family and friends. Cemetery Road isn’t just a story about a man returning home, or a quashed murder investigation, or an extramarital affair, or the “good ole boys” network at work in the deep South. Yes, the story contains all of those elements and much more. I’ve tried for the past few days to neatly summarize this story and all I’ve come up with is it’s a damned good read. So, if you enjoy reading Southern Fiction then grab a copy. If you enjoy reading thrillers, grab a copy. If you enjoy reading about complex relationships and returning home, grab a copy. If you enjoy reading about good trying to conquer evil (and there are plenty of shades of evil), grab a copy. If you’re just looking for a good read, grab a copy. Mr. Iles has this amazing ability to take what initially appears to be a simple tale and deftly weave a complex towering story that captures the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go. Just in case you couldn’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cemetery Road and highly recommend it. Now go and put this on your TBR list and get yourself a copy ASAP!

Disclaimer:  I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ for review purposes. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Cemetery Road

Cemetery Road

Cemetery Road

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2017 Book 113: MISSISSIPPI BLOOD by Greg Iles

Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles 
ISBN: 9780062311153 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062311191 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062657350 (audio CD)
ASIN: B01HXJREHW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow  
Publication Date: March 21, 2017

The endgame is at hand for Penn Cage, his family, and the enemies bent on destroying them in this revelatory volume in the epic trilogy set in modern-day Natchez, Mississippi—Greg Iles’s epic tale of love and honor, hatred and revenge that explores how the sins of the past continue to haunt the present.

Shattered by grief and dreaming of vengeance, Penn Cage sees his family and his world collapsing around him. The woman he loves is gone, his principles have been irrevocably compromised, and his father, once a paragon of the community that Penn leads as mayor, is about to be tried for the murder of a former lover. Most terrifying of all, Dr. Cage seems bent on self-destruction. Despite Penn’s experience as a prosecutor in major murder trials, his father has frozen him out of the trial preparations—preferring to risk dying in prison to revealing the truth of the crime to his son.

During forty years practicing medicine, Tom Cage made himself the most respected and beloved physician in Natchez, Mississippi. But this revered Southern figure has secrets known only to himself and a handful of others. Among them, Tom has a second son, the product of an 1960s affair with his devoted African American nurse, Viola Turner. It is Viola who has been murdered, and her bitter son—Penn’s half-brother—who sets in motion the murder case against his father. The resulting investigation exhumes dangerous ghosts from Mississippi’s violent past. In some way that Penn cannot fathom, Viola Turner was a nexus point between his father and the Double Eagles, a savage splinter cell of the KKK. More troubling still, the long-buried secrets shared by Dr. Cage and the former Klansmen may hold the key to the most devastating assassinations of the 1960s. The surviving Double Eagles will stop at nothing to keep their past crimes buried, and with the help of some of the most influential men in the state, they seek to ensure that Dr. Cage either takes the fall for them, or takes his secrets to an early grave.

Tom Cage’s murder trial sets a terrible clock in motion, and unless Penn can pierce the veil of the past and exonerate his father, his family will be destroyed. Unable to trust anyone around him—not even his own mother—Penn joins forces with Serenity Butler, a famous young black author who has come to Natchez to write about his father’s case. Together, Penn and Serenity—a former soldier—battle to crack the Double Eagles and discover the secret history of the Cage family and the South itself, a desperate move that risks the only thing they have left to gamble: their lives.

Mississippi Blood is the enthralling conclusion to a breathtaking trilogy seven years in the making—one that has kept readers on the edge of their seats. With piercing insight, narrative prowess, and a masterful ability to blend history and imagination, New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles illuminates the brutal history of the American South in a highly atmospheric and suspenseful novel that delivers the shocking resolution his fans have eagerly awaited.

Penn Cage is a lawyer turned best-selling fiction author. After the death of his wife, Penn relocated to his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi with his young, grieving daughter. Over the past few years, he’s been instrumental in solving the decades-old murder of a Black Civil Rights leader, helped a childhood friend accused of murder, and more. Penn, his family, and indeed most of the people in Mississippi know that the past is never far removed from the present and it is the past that has come back to haunt the lives of the Cage family, specifically Penn’s father, Dr. Tom Cage. Tom Cage is being accused of murdering his former nurse and lover in an effort to silence her from revealing his illegitimate bi-racial child with her. Meanwhile, Penn and his daughter Annie, are still reeling from the murder of Penn’s fiance, Caitlin Masters. If that’s not enough to contend with, Penn is also in the fight of his life to protect his family from the last surviving Double Eagles in their quest to silence witnesses to their past and present misdeeds. Add into the mixture, a renowned nonfiction author and mentor to a young reporter that’s been seriously injured in retaliation for her news stories, an aging but well-known Black lawyer representing Dr. Tom Cage, a Black presiding judge that was mentored by the defending attorney, a Black district attorney that wants to make a name for himself no matter the cost, a White sheriff that has a long-standing beef with Dr. Cage because of past behaviors by the sheriff, and an angry biracial man out for revenge against his recently revealed father.

To say that there’s a lot going on in Mississippi Blood is a massive understatement, but Mr. Iles takes all of these seemingly disparate topics and weaves them into a taut and cohesive story. If you’ve read Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree, you’ll know that there are many unanswered questions about the past and the present. Mississippi Blood answers those questions and provides a sense of closure, especially on the racially-motivated murders and rapes from the 1960s and ongoing harassment by the Double Eagles. I will warn you, all of these books are lengthy and I’m talking 500+ pages. However, all of these books are incredibly fast reads because the story pulls you in and you won’t realize how quickly time passes as you read page after page after page. I found Mississippi Blood an incredibly fast-paced read that I completed in one day. Mr. Iles doesn’t steer clear of topics or language that might be considered offensive to some but is more than appropriate for the era and people being presented. Mississippi Blood openly discusses rapes, gang rapes, torture, and murder, but all are relevant to the story and done so with a sense of respect for the victims. Yes, Mississippi Blood deals with plenty of difficult topics and it isn’t a lighthearted read by any stretch of the imagination. Mississippi Blood is a respectful and well-written story about a difficult time in our recent past and present. For those of you that have already read the first two books in the Natchez Burning trilogy, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Mississippi Blood to read. For those of you that haven’t read the Natchez Burning trilogy and enjoy reading well-written thrillers that incorporate history with the present, you’ll want to read this series. If you couldn’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and series. I could go on and on about this book and series, but I’ll simply say this, read these books! I’m incredibly grateful to Mr. Iles for writing such a wonderful series of books (actually, I’ve read and enjoyed all of his books but this series stands out) and although I know this is the end of the Natchez Burning trilogy, I’m hopeful this isn’t the last of Penn Cage.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ for review purposes. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Read an excerpt from Mississippi Blood here.

About Greg Iles

Greg Iles spent most of his youth in Natchez, Mississippi. His first novel, Spandau Phoenix, was the first of thirteen New York Times bestsellers, and his new trilogy continues the story of Penn Cage, protagonist of The Quiet Game, Turning Angel, and #1 New York Times bestseller The Devil’s Punchbowl. Iles’s novels have been made into films and published in more than thirty-five countries. He lives in Natchez with his wife and has two children.

Find out more about Greg at his website, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook.

This review and tour brought to you by TLC Book Tours.

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 Mississippi Blood (Natchez Burning Series #3)

AudiobookMississippi Blood (Natchez Burning Series #3)

Mississippi Blood (Natchez Burning Series #3)

Mississippi Blood

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Mississippi Blood

2015 Book 117: THE BONE TREE Review

The Bone Tree (Penn Cage #5) by Greg Iles
ISBN: 9780062311115 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062311146 (ebook)
ASIN: B00M70YWKK (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow & Company

Greg Iles continues the electrifying story begun in his smash New York Times bestseller Natchez Burning in this highly anticipated second installment of an epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice, featuring Southern lawyer Penn Cage.

Former prosecutor Penn Cage and his fiancee, reporter and publisher Caitlin Masters, have barely escaped with their lives after being attacked by wealthy businessman Brody Royal and his Double Eagles, a KKK sect with ties to some of Mississippi’s most powerful men. But the real danger has only begun as FBI Special Agent John Kaiser warns Penn that Brody wasn’t the true leader of the Double Eagles. The puppeteer who actually controls the terrorist group is a man far more fearsome: the chief of the state police’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, Forrest Knox.

The only way Penn can save his father, Dr. Tom Cage–who is fleeing a murder charge as well as corrupt cops bent on killing him–is either to make a devil’s bargain with Knox or destroy him. While Penn desperately pursues both options, Caitlin uncovers the real story behind a series of unsolved civil rights murders that may hold the key to the Double Eagles’ downfall. The trail leads her deep into the past, into the black backwaters of the Mississippi River, to a secret killing ground used by slave owners and the Klan for over two hundred years . . . a place of terrifying evil known only as “the bone tree.”

The Bone Tree is an explosive, action-packed thriller full of twisting intrigue and deadly secrets, a tale that explores the conflicts and casualties that result when the darkest truths of American history come to light. It puts us inside the skin of a noble man who has always fought for justice–now finally pushed beyond his limits.

Just how far will Penn Cage, the hero we thought we knew, go to protect those he loves?

The Bone Tree is the fifth book to feature lawyer-turned author-turned politician Penn Cage and the second book in the trilogy that began with Natchez Burning. The underlying premise in both books is the discovery of the truth about a series of racially motivated/civil rights murders, mutilations, and rapes that occurred in the 1960s at the hands of the Double Eagles. One victim of this groups’ violence was the Dr. Tom Cage’s black nurse, Viola Turner. Mrs. Turner was raped not once but twice at the hands of the Double Eagles and her brother was viciously murdered by them. Fast forward forty years and Viola Turner returned to Mississippi to die, even though she was warned to never return. Although dying of cancer, Ms. Turner is being treated by her former boss (and lover), Dr. Tom Cage. When Viola Turner does die, her son Lincoln Turner is sure it is murder and accuses Dr. Cage as the murderer. Now if you think that’s not enough to deal with, in the background we find two different journalists attempting to uncover the dirty truths of the racial murders back in the 1960s and locate the infamous “Bone Tree”, and then the FBI shows up with information that may link the Double Eagles and the local mafia with the murders of not only President Kennedy, but also Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Bone Tree begins pretty much just where Natchez Burning ends. The action takes place over the course of only four days, but there is a lot crammed into those four days. Unfortunately, there are a lot of good people that are killed as a result of the journalistic and police investigations. The journalists, FBI, and Penn Cage must all work around corrupt police forces, corrupt businessmen, and, of course, the corrupt members of the Double Eagles who are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their legacy and way of life. The bad guys are willing to bribe, threaten, or kill anyone that gets in their way, and sadly Penn Cage is pushed to the point where he is willing to not only bend but break the rules to arrive at the truth.

Just as with Natchez Burning, The Bone Tree shows that we can never really know someone, whether it’s our parents or spouse. People keep secrets. Some of those secrets are kept in fear of retaliation and some are kept out of shame. Both Penn and Tom Cage are trying to come to grips with this idea as Tom Cage fights to survive to see another day and Penn fights to protect his family. The Bone Tree also shows just how far a good man is willing to go to protect loved ones. There’s a lot going on in The Bone Tree, but somehow the 816 pages didn’t feel like 816 pages. Yes, this is a long and involved read, but that’s primarily because there is so much going on and there are a lot of characters and action intersecting in the main plot and subplots. I wish I could say I read this in one sitting, but even I have to sleep. This was another amazing suspense-thriller by Mr. Iles that I didn’t want to put down, even when I could barely keep my eyes closed. Are all the questions raised in Natchez Burning answered? Are the bad guys arrested and held accountable for their current and past misdeeds? I could tell you, but I’ll just say read the book to find out. If you enjoy well-written and intricately plotted suspense thrillers or if you’ve read Natchez Burning, then you’ll want to grab a copy of The Bone Tree ASAP. I recommend waiting until the weekend to read this as you won’t want to put it down. Alternatively, you could simply take a few days personal leave to read this book. What, you haven’t read Natchez Burning? Okay, I’m in shock, especially since I told you (okay, strongly suggested) to read it last year. What are you waiting for? Now you’ll need to take a week off so you can read both Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree. I plan on taking a week off in a few months just to reread both of these books . . . perhaps I’ll just take a week or more to reread all of the books featuring Penn Cage. 

Just to add a little more excitement, Natchez Burning, is on its way to becoming a cable series with Sony and Amazon studies. Read more about this series here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 182: Review of NATCHEZ BURNING

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
ISBN: 9780062311078 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062311108 (ebook)
ASIN: B00FJ3AC10 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow

An American writer at the height of his creative powers, #1 New York Times bestselling novelist Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated book yet, and his first in five years—Natchez Burning, the first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage.

Raised in the historic southern splendor of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows of honor and duty from his father, Dr. Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor and pillar of the community has been accused of murdering Viola Turner, the African-American nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the 1960s. Once a crusading prosecutor, Penn is determined to save his father, but Tom, stubbornly invoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses to even speak in his own defense.

Penn’s quest for the truth sends him deep into his father’s past, where a sexually charged secret lies waiting to tear their family apart. More chilling, this long-buried sin is only a single thread in a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state. Aided by a dedicated reporter privy to Natchez’s oldest secrets and by his fiancée, Caitlin Masters, Penn uncovers a trail of corruption and brutality that places his family squarely in the Double Eagles’ crosshairs. With every step costing blood and faith, Penn is forced to confront the most wrenching dilemma of his life: Does a man of honor choose his father or the truth?

Drenched in southern atmosphere, Natchez Burning marks the brilliant return of a genuine American master of suspense. Tense, disturbing, and filled with electrifying plot twists, this novel commences the most explosive and ambitious story Greg Iles has ever written.

Natchez Burning presents a variety of societal issues without any sugarcoating, such as rampant racism, racially motivated torture and killings, rape, intimidation, adultery, illegal drugs, family, injustice, and, the worst thing of all, secrets. How far do you go to protect your past? How far do you go to protect the past of others? How far are you willing to go to protect a way of life?

I’ve enjoyed reading all of the previous novels by Greg Iles that included the character Penn Cage, and Natchez Burning is definitely included in that list. However, Natchez Burning is now my favorite Greg Iles novel and the reasons why are multitudinous. Penn Cage is a flawed yet honorable man. This book presents Penn with the worst possible dilemma, supporting the truth or his family. Natchez Burning presents a painful part of American history that is not too distant and not easily addressed, if at all, by government officials or even appeased by the truth. Racism is still a part of American culture regardless as what some in the media may say. Natchez Burning points a bright spotlight on this ongoing issue and the past behaviors of a small group of racists that killed ruthlessly with impunity. 

I found Natchez Burning to be a difficult read simply because it spotlights hate crimes and the perpetrators in such a realistic manner. Reading about torture, killings, and rape, even if fictionalized, had me putting aside the book for a few hours before resuming. Natchez Burning portrays the South in a dark, gritty and realistic way that surpasses what has been revealed in other books dealing with racism and injustice. Yet even with the dark and heart-wrenching themes, Mr. Iles provides the reader with a sense of hope that justice will prevail and “truth will out.”

I could go on and on about the different characters, those I liked and those I despised. I could go on and on about the tragedies that are revealed, many in the past and some contemporary. I could rave about the amazing writing of Mr. Iles or the fact that this book is just as much literary masterpiece as it is mystery-suspense masterpiece. However the only thing I really need to tell you is to read this book! If you never take any other bookish recommendation from me, take this one — go out and buy a copy of Natchez Burning and read this book! For myself, I’ll be re-reading Natchez Burning as I anxiously await the next book in this trilogy, The Bone Tree.

Just so you don’t think I’m the only one raving about this book, here’s what others are saying about Natchez Burning:

Kirkus Reviews (starred review): “A searing tale of racial hatreds and redemption in the modern South, courtesy of Southern storyteller extraordinaire Iles. . . . A memorable, harrowing tale.”

Library Journal (starred review): “An absorbing and electrifying tale that thriller fans will be sure to devour.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review): “Much more than a thriller, Iles’s deftly plotted fourth Penn Cage novel doesn’t flag for a moment . . . This superlative novel’s main strength comes from the lead’s struggle to balance family and honor.”

Scott Turow: “Natchez Burning is just flat-out terrific . . . its themes about race, violence, tradition, and the eternal smoldering anger of the South [bring] to mind Thomas Wolfe and William Faulkner . . . Greg Iles is back and truly better than ever.”

Stephen King: “Natchez Burning is extraordinarily entertaining and fiendishly suspenseful. I defy you to start it and find a way to put it down . . . This is an amazing work of popular fiction.”

Jodi Picoult: “I don’t know how Iles did it, but every single page of Natchez Burning is a cliffhanger that will keep you devouring just one more chapter before you put it down . . . this ambitious, unique novel is the perfect marriage of a history lesson and a thriller.”

Booklist (starred review): “It’s been half a decade since Iles’ last Penn Cage novel, but, oh boy, was it worth the wait! . . . This beautifully written novel represents some of the author’s finest work, with sharper characterizations and a story of especially deep emotional resonance, and we eagerly await volume two.”

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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