Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bookish Review: The Devil's Punchbowl

The Devil's Punchbowl is a hometown thriller by Greg Iles, set, as many of his books are, in Natchez, MS. The book stars Iles's recurring protagonist Penn Cage, who has gone from being a lawyer to an author and now mayor of Natchez. Iles's books often contain disturbing sexual violence, and this one is no exception, featuring rape and prostitution in addition to torture, gambling, and dog fighting. Iles writes finely-crafted suspense novels, but I will confess that some of his in the past have made me feel almost physically ill as well as just plain dirty after reading them. They are so well-written, though, that I keep reading them despite their disturbing nature. In this one, Penn gets himself wrapped up in some international intrigue thanks to a childhood friend who is murdered by those he is trying to investigate. Soon Penn's daughter and whole family are in danger and he must weigh their safety versus doing what he thinks is write--namely stopping a bunch of criminals who are engaging in all kinds of reprehensible activities in Natchez as well as cheating the city out of thousands of dollars of tax revenue.

Iles is a Southern boy, so his Southern thrillers give a remarkably accurate view of life in Dixie. The crimes and situations are often outlandish, but the motivations and reactions and settings ring true. Another well-written volume in the Cage saga (and good to see Caitlin back!), but be prepared to read about very disturbing things.

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