“The Devil’s Punchbowl”


Several weeks ago I read “Natchez Burning” by Greg Iles.  It was a page-turning, suspenseful mystery set against a story of race-relations in Mississippi.  Brutal yet fascinating, it has been on the best-seller list for several weeks.  When I realized that Iles has written other mysteries set in Natchez and featuring the same characters, I thought I would try another title.  “Devil’s Punchbowl,”  which we have in our collection, chronologically precedes “Natchez Burning.” The basic cast of characters is the same.  Penn Cage, mayor of Natchez, former assistant DA in Houston, widower, and a very successful writer, is once again involved in a life and death situation that threatens his child, his mother and father, and a childhood friend. Caitlin Masters, Cage’s on and off girl friend, and Texas Ranger Walt Garrity are again key characters.

Unfortunately, “Devil’s Punchbowl” lacks the story depth of “Natchez Burning.”  Prostitution, dog fighting, and riverboat gambling are the key problems that move the plot along.  Throw in political corruption, two characters that are evil incarnate, and several brutal murders and you have the basic story line.

Granted this is another page turner, but not really worthy of the time and attention of the reader.

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