by Robert FlemingSeptember, 1999
In Greg Iles's new book, the title explains the wall of silence and resistance confronted by Houston prosecutor Penn Cage upon his return to his Mississippi hometown. He has returned to his roots with his young daughter after the agonizing cancer death of his wife. Penn reluctantly takes on a controversial 30-year-old civil rights case involving the bombing death of a black man, a thorny matter which the conservative Old South community would rather forget.
While residents attempt to convince Penn to let sleeping dogs lie and stonewall his push to re-open the Del Payton case, a visit by the victim's family only bolsters Penn's resolve to do something about the situation.
Moreover, Penn's father, Tom, is being blackmailed by a dying jailbird who has a gun tying the older man to a murder, and the sinister demands for more money increase as Tom's health declines. Penn's friends and business associates advise him to leave, but he cannot because of his father's predicament.
The doomed convict plans to take Tom down with him, claiming the murder weapon was a gun borrowed from the physician, that they were partners in the crime. The only solution to end the blackmailing may require Penn to break his strict ethical code.
Meanwhile, the pressure to stop Penn from bringing the Payton case to trial mounts, especially after a press interview given to Caitlin Masters, a newspaper publisher. Once Penn and Caitlin team up, the fireworks start with a host of obstacles thrown between them and the truth including the FBI, a tyrannical judge, the Natchez community, and an old flame with a score to settle. The action reaches a peak in the courtroom, when the resourceful Penn takes on the opposition for a bitter fight in which the truth cannot be denied.
Robert Fleming is a journalist in New York City.