This book is the fourth in the Penn Cage Series, first in the Natchez Burning Trilogy, featuring Penn Cage, a lawyer-turned-mayor in modern Natchez, Mississippi. For this reason, character development was lacking a bit for Penn but it wasn’t necessary for me to read any of the previous novels to follow the narrative.
The story centers around members of a KKK branch called the Double Eagles and the atrocities they have committed over the past five decades. Penn’s father, Tom Cage, is seemingly caught up in one (or more) of these atrocities as he is accused of murdering an African-American nurse he worked with back in the 1960s. Penn, assisted by his fiancee and a local Natchez reporter, spends the duration of the book trying to prove his father’s innocence and the Double Eagles’ guilt.
What made this book for me, and kept me reading to the bitter end, was the writing. OH, the writing. Although the book is nearly 800 pages, not one sentence of this novel is wasted. The author kept me enthralled throughout, on the edge of my seat, anxiously engaged in the characters and unfolding plotline. It was fast-paced and every scene contributed to the story overall. This book was extra interesting to me because, according to the author, quite a few of the events described in the novel are based on real events that happened in his hometown. Additionally, the Natchez reporter, Henry Sexton, is based on a real person.
I own this book in print but also bought it on Kindle for my phone so I could sneak a few pages at a time throughout the day. It was THAT good. I cannot wait to pick up the second book in the trilogy (fifth in the overall series), The Bone Tree.
Rated: DIRT. Even with as well as it was written, sadly, I must give this book a rating of DIRT. There is pervasive strong language (countless f-words); a pages-long explicit sex scene; and many instances of brutal and disturbing violence, committed by evil and disturbed people. Honestly, if this were a movie, I would probably have turned it off before it was even 15 minutes in. Since this was a book, however, I could skip over the things I didn’t care to know details about and still be able to enjoy the thrill.