It’s been a little while since I last blogged but don’t worry, I have been reading while having some fun adventures and I’ll be back to blogging much more frequently than the past few months. And I’ll still have my guest blogger from time to time!
I’ve been thinking of new content ideas for my blog and this idea has been brewing for a little while. A family friend of mine mentioned he was reading a book series that I’ve read for years and admittedly, I was a bit envious that he was getting to experience the series for the first time. My cousin, C, also reads a certain series every year. And I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t had a particularly satisfying binge watching experience – 13 Reasons Why was my most recent. All of the above got me thinking about the idea of book series (or collections) and getting to read them one after another. It’s not exactly binge reading but I think it’s a fun way to find new things to read and get to know some cool characters really well. So over time, I’ll introduce you to some of my favourite series and characters, starting with Penn Cage.
The Penn Cage novels are definitely up there on my list of favourites. The series is written by Greg Iles and to say he writes books that you can’t put down might actually be an understatement. But there is also so much more to them – Penn is a very interesting character – he comes home to Natchez, Mississippi in the first book from Houston where he had been a prosecutor and then famous novelist before his wife passed away from cancer. He brought his daughter, Annie, home to be close to her grandparents and the home he grew up in. Tom Cage is a revered doctor with a rich and storied history of his own in Natchez and the stories that Greg Iles created come from both Penn and Tom’s lives. With Penn at the centre of each story, there are wonderful other characters to meet and get to know. Sometimes they are great characters but actually terrible people – wonderful in the way they come to life.
The Penn Cage books were published (the story follows the publishing order):
The Quiet Game, which was published in 1999
Turning Angel, published in 2005
The Devil’s Punchbowl, published in 2009
Natchez Burning, published in 2014
The Bone Tree, published in 2015
Mississippi Blood, published in 2017
The final three books are part of a trilogy that started with Natchez Burning, one of my favourite books that year, and wraps up with Mississippi Blood. When I say I couldn’t put it down – I read it in 24 hours and it’s close to 700 pages long. I needed to know what happened and while the ending was worth it, I do hope Penn comes back again.
Natchez, Mississippi plays a central role in most of the books as does the Civil Rights movement. It had a profound impact on the town in the sixties and in Iles’ novels, continues to have an impact. It made the stories incredibly fascinating but also sad and somewhat disappointing in the knowledge people can be so terrible (The Quiet Game and the Natchez Burning Trilogy). The other stories are just as intense and personal – Turning Angel features Penn’s childhood friend in deep trouble after a teenage girl is found murdered. Corruption, dog fighting, gambling and more are at the centre of The Devil’s Punchbowl.
In addition to great stories and great characters that you get to see evolve throughout the novels, what makes me compare the books to a great action movie are the high stakes for Penn and the people he loves. He is often being threatened by the worst of the worst characters and finds himself in incredibly dangerous situations. It is all of that – characters, background, history, story and high stakes that make these novels so worth reading. So much in fact, that after reading The Bone Tree, I went back and started reading them from the beginning!
An additional note, I read The Quiet Game after reading Natchez Burning – the books seemed a bit more like standalone books before the Trilogy was announced so if you want to start with any of them or the Trilogy, you can certainly go ahead. I’m a firm believer in starting at the start but it’s not a game changer.
If you decide to jump into the series, let me know. I would love to know what you think!