Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Devil's Punchbowl by Greg Iles

We recently spent a week at the beach during which something wonderful happened: nothing. Absolutely nothing! It was the most relaxing, refreshing and invigorating week I've had in a long time.

Part of what made that nothing week so special was Greg Iles's latest, The Devil's Punchbowl. While I agree with those who say it is too long with too much extraneous detail and far too violent, it is still one of the best thrillers I've read in several years.

This is Penn Cage's third appearance in Iles's books. This time, he has been elected mayor of Natchez with a dream of rescuing the city's schools and economy from the doldrums they continue to exhibit. He finds these tasks complicated by the almost unfathomable depths of corruption in the city--deeper metaphorically than the Devil's Punchbowl itself.

I have to admit that a lot of the fun of reading the book is keeping tabs of which locations are real and which are fabrications. It is great fun to walk down Washington Street with Penn or stand in the gazebo overlooking the river while witnessing a murder.

While the discussion of Natchez's ills will discourage some readers, the intense violence will deter others. This is definitely not a gentle read. Blood flows, people and animals die horrible deaths and the bad guys are totally amoral.

In spite of all that, I absolutely could not put the book down and can't wait for the promised sequel. Write fast Greg!

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