Book Review - The Devil's Punchbowl by Greg Iles
Like I needed yet another book to read on the way home from a conference... But there I was at the airport, and the book rack kept calling out to me. I ended up succumbing to the siren call and pick up The Devil's Punchbowl from Greg Iles. At 710 pages, this is one LONG paperback novel. But the storyline was pretty good, and it's kept me interested for a week of bedtime recreational reading. I think it could have been done in fewer pages, but that wasn't a horrible drawback in this case.
The main plot takes place in a small Mississippi town that derives much of its income from riverboat gambling. Penn Cage, the mayor of Natchez, took on the job to try and improve education and make the town more like the place he remembered while growing up there. But a long-time friend and struggling drug addict comes to him with a story of major corruption and vice run by the owners of the casino boat Magnolia Queen. Cage isn't quite sure whether his friend is strung out or really knows something, but decides to meet with him anyway. Shortly thereafter, Cage's friend is killed in a particularly gruesome manner, and Cage is now completely swallowed up in trying to figure out what had his friend so worried. The problem is that with as much money as the casino makes, it's quite easy to buy off any and everyone who might be able to uncover the truth. And if you can't buy someone off, killing them is just as easy and effective. Cage finds that out when his family is threatened as part of a warning. Never one to say no, this just causes Cage to rally his own troops around him, and the battle begins with many lives at stake based on the outcome. And telling the good guys from the bad guys is nearly impossible.
For such a long novel, Iles did a good job on pacing. There were only a couple spots where I thought the story started to drag, but fortunately it picked up again shortly thereafter. I see that this is the third book featuring the Cage character, so that would explain why I felt I was missing out on some nuances and background as the story unfolded. It wasn't a significant detriment to have not read the two prior books, but I could tell that some of the interactions were likely better explained by knowing the prior history of the characters. I'm tempted to head out to the library website and put the first two on hold just to catch up on the backstory, as well as to enjoy what should be a couple of good novels.
Obtained From: Bookstore