Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Great book, I can't wait for the second book in the trilogy (The Bone Tree) to come out April 2015. I have read all Greg Iles' books so I was very familiar with all the "good" characters and even some of the bad ones as they have featured in prior novels, which I think added to my enjoyment, and certainly helped with keeping all the characters straight.
Dr. Tom Cage is accused of killing his former nurse and lover Viola Turner, by her son Lincoln Turner. Lincoln also claims Tom is his Father. Tom goes on the run with his friend and former Texas Ranger, Walt Garrity. They plan to kidnap a member of the Double Eagles Sonny Thornfield but things go wrong from the get go. First since the Double Eagles are observing radio and phone silence in fear they are being wiretapped Forest Knox sent one of his deputies by to give Sonny a message. Seeing that Sonny is gone but his vehicle isn't he uses the GPS in Sonny's phone to track him and finds Walt and Tom with him. When the deputy shoots Tom, Walt kills him. Sonny has a heart-attack and Tom insist on taking him to the ER, before Tom & Walt hide at Drew's lake house. Drew and Nurse Melba come to treat Tom, and Melba stays with them after Drew leaves to provide medical assistance to Tom. Walt leaves to meet Griffith Mackiever Colonel of the Louisiana State Police, and Forrest Knox's (Frank Knox's son and head of the Double Eagles) boss. Tom sends Melba home as her life is in danger as long as she is with him. He walks out to the lake where two assassins approach him. Tom kills one and has the other carry the body.
Henry Sexton (reporter) has been trying to solve the murders of Albert Norris (his former African American girlfriend Swan's Father), Pooky Wilson, Jimmy Revels (Viola's brother) and Luther Davis for decades. When Viola returns to town (dying of cancer) Henry is thrilled at the opportunity to interview her. He leaves a camcorder with her and it captures her final moments. Someone has taken the tape, but Henry finds the external flash drive still there.Henry shares the info with Shadrach Johnson "Shad" (Natchez DA) out of a sense of duty, who is thrilled at the chance to destroy Dr. Tom Cage. With the help of Sheriff Billy Byrd the incriminating picture Mayor Penn Cage has of Shad watching a dog being tortured is neutralized. Henry Sexton firmly on the Cage's side made a copy of the flash drive and shares it with Penn. He also shares all the information his has accumulated about the "Civil Rights Era" murders and his theory that Brody Royal was the master mind behind them. Henry ask Penn not to share his information with his fiancee Caitlin Masters, who is a rival reporter. But when the story starts to break Henry agrees to go to work for Caitlin, in order to reach a larger audience.
Henry is attacked and the newspaper office he was working for was burned to the ground. Supposedly all his records were destroyed in the fire. But he kept copies in a safety deposit box at the Royal Bank and gives the keys to Caitlin,so she can finish the story. Caitlin puts a story together and interviews Katy Royal. Caitlin gets a recording of Katy stating that her Father Brody Royal was responsible for all the murders. Before Caitlin can question her further Katy passes out from a drug overdose and her husband Randall Regan shows up. Caitlin is barely able to escape from him. When Caitlin tells Penn about the recording he wants to use it to blackmail Brody Royal into making his Father's legal troubles go away. Caitlin goes to talk to Henry and a sniper takes a shot at him. Due to Caitlin's quick response pulling the bed out of the way Henry is OK, but his current girlfriend Sherry is killed by the sniper. Penn goes to talk to Brody Royal and Caitlin goes back to the newspaper determined to tell the entire story in spite of what Penn wants.
FBI Agent John Kaiser and his wife Jordan Glass (famous war photographer) are in town to drain the Jericho Hole after a diver Penn hired found Luther Davis' body, chained to his car's steering wheel.
Brody Royal hired goons to kidnap Caitlin and Penn. They take them to Brody Royal's Lake House where he plans to torture them until they reveal the identity of the informant known only as Huggy Bear in Henry's notes. Huggy Bear is the last person who can place Brody Royal at the murders since Brody had Randall Reagan kill Katy (Brody's daughter, Reagan's wife) to keep her from talking. Henry goes to confront Brody Royal and finds Sleepy Johnson (Huggy Bear) outside. He saw Caitlin and Penn brought to the house and Henry determines to save them. While they are trying to come up with a plan a security guard catches them, he destroys Sleepy Johnson's phone, before Johnson is able to kill him. With no way to call for help they go in to rescue Caitlin and Penn alone. Caitlin and Penn are chained up and Brody is fixing to burn Caitlin when Johnson and Henry arrive. Johnson is shot but Henry places himself between Caitlin and Brody and walks to Brody immolating them both. Penn manages to kill a distracted Regan. Johnson is barely alive when Penn carries him outside and Penn and Caitlin watch him die before help can reach them, as Royal's house goes up in flames.
Lot's of unanswered questions and plenty of suspense. We can only hope Tom's health will hold up while he is on the run and that he can evade the bad guys long enough to be extracted from his legal woes.
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*Notes and Questions
I wonder if Jimmy Revels is alive based on the question the FBI asked Dr. Leland Robb about someone surviving being flayed alive, and Brody's telling Caitlin and Penn that Snake attempted to flay Jimmy but didn't have the right kind of knife. We also know that Sonny felt bad about what he was suppose to do and that Jimmy's last words were "I forgive you". Did Sonny leave him alive at The Bone Tree? or did he follow orders and kill him leaving his body at The Bone Tree?
What power did Tom have that allowed Viola to go free and escape to the North? What did Tom give up? What is his connection to Brody Royal?
I don't think Lincoln Turner is Tom Cage's son. It is more likely Viola's pregnancy was the result of being gang raped twice. Brody Royal could possibly be Lincoln Turner's Father, as he admitted taking a turn with Viola.
Who is the traitor inside Caitlin's newspaper? What did they have to gain by locking Caitlin out of the building and throwing her purse out? And why would they give up all Henry's files?