Mississippi Blood is the final installment in the trilogy that Iles began seven years ago. Set in Natchez, Mississippi the sereis features Penn Cage, a former prosecutor and now mayor of this small, struggling city in the south. His father, Tom, is a doctor and a prominent and well loved member of both the white and black communities. But all of his accomplishments and his reputation are on the line for Tom is now accused of murdering his former lover, a black nurse named Viola who came back to Natchez suffering from an incurable illness.
But there are many secrets beneath the surface of this town. Secrets that are threatened now by Tom’s trial and by Penn’s efforts to help gather facts to support Tom’s defense. The secret of Tom and Viola’s affair is of course shocking to Penn, but he is more concered about Viola’s son who claims he is tom’s son and now seeks vengeance for his abandonment. But there are other secrets as well, such as Tom’s connections with a mob boss who might have had something to do with John F. Kennedy’s assassination, or what Tom knew about the killing of two young civil right’s activists, one of whom was Viola’s brother. As the layers of secrets get stripped away, the role of the Double Eagles, a white supremacist militia group, becomes more and more clearly defined and the Double Eagles step up their efforts to intimidate and terrorize Penn and his family to prevent Tom and Penn from revealing the extent of their crimes. But there are also the personal secrets that have been carried within Penn’s family. Why won’t Tom let his son, an experienced lawyer, help with his defense and what did his mother know about Tom’s affair?
Essentially this is a book about secrets and how they corrupt our relationships in ways that we cannot fully understand. There are the personal secrets that we carry to protect our spouse and our children or friends and then there are the secrets that society carries, hiding the inequality and the injustice that those in power impose on the weak and the voiceless. Iles has created a modern indictment of this kind of social secrecy, holding up the injustice, the lack of civil liberties and the numbing brutality that this kind of secrecy perpetuates. As Iles said in an interview on NPR, “All my books are an inquiry into the nature of evil. Why do good people do bad things? Are any human beings completely evil? Do we all have good within us? That’s what I’m interested in.” Iles has plumbed the depths of good and evil in this series and has made us confront our own capacity for both. Reading this book after the events of Charlottesville made me realize how relevant his books are and how much farther we have to go to find ways to search out, expose and atone for this kind of evil.
Brenda’s Rating: *****(5 Out of 5 Stars)
Recommend this book to? Marian, Sharon, Keith and Ken
Book Study Worthy? Yes!
Read in ebook format.