Is there space in the overcrowded courtroom for one more writer of sharp, very suspenseful legal thrillers? Yes--if that writer is Greg Iles, who has proven in such varied efforts as Black Cross, Mortal Fear, and Spandau Phoenix that he knows how to squeeze the last drop of suspense out of all sorts of situations.
Iles immediately makes us feel both sympathy and empathy for his glossy hero, Penn Cage--a former ace Texas prosecutor turned suspense novelist whose sales are up there in the John Grisham Himalayan range.
Trying to cope with the recent death of his wife, Cage takes his 5-year-old daughter to Florida's Disney World, where the child sadly sees visions of her mother everywhere in the fantasy-filled environment. Wouldn't a trip to his parents' stately home in Natchez be more soothing for all concerned? Wrong, as it turns out--and before Cage can catch his breath, he's deeply involved in several dangerous matters. His father, a dedicated doctor, is being blackmailed for a past mistake in judgment, and a powerful judge (who just happens to be the father of Penn's high school sweetheart) has a nasty personal agenda of his own. Then there's the unsolved 1968 murder case of a black man, which Cage insists on reopening with the help of an attractive, ambitious newspaper publisher.
Iles does for Natchez what John Berendt did for Savannah in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, creating a gothic Southern landscape where elegance and depravity walk hand in hand. --Dick Adler