The second installment of his hard-boiled Natchez trilogy finds Iles’ (Natchez Burning, 2014, etc.) hero Penn Cage on even swampier, and surely deadlier, ground than before.
Natchez, Mississippi, to Dallas is a far piece, but it’s just a rifle bullet’s trajectory away. Or so find Penn and his sidekick/fiancee, Caitlin Masters, when, surely unwisely, they poke deep into the klavernous doings of the local white-supremacy klatch. The Double Eagles were bad enough when resonantly named Brody Royal was in charge, but it seems he’s on sabbatical, and a new boss even more viperous has moved into town. As ever, Iles’ account of his hometown of Natchez is sure to displease local boosters, and as ever, he skillfully weaves family saga with local history (real and imagined) and world events, in this case the murders of civil rights workers and the not-coincidental assassination of a certain president half a century ago. As the evidence mounts, the prey begins to get testy: Warns one well-meaning ally, “If you push the Double Eagles too soon, or too hard, Forrest Knox could move to bury whatever evidence might remain. That might mean killing some of his own family, and I don’t think he’d hesitate.” Blood may be thicker than water, but in the South, it’s thicker than even all that, so that’s sayin’ something: The bad guy is really bad. In a scenario swarming with FBI agents (one of whom, we learn early on, “had decided to use the authority granted him under the Patriot Act to take a step that under any other circumstances would have been a violation of the Constitution”), villains, reporters, and a red herring or two, Iles allows Cage and Masters plenty of room to operate—and so they do, with all the missteps of ordinary people, unlike the supercops and superagents of so many other procedurals.
Fans will find that the pace has picked up a touch from the first volume—and that’s a good thing. We’ll need to wait for the next one before toting up the body count, but it’s sure to be massive.