Prosecutor-turned-novelist Penn Cage, the hero of Greg Iles' 1999 bestseller The Quiet Game, is back in his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, and facing his most disturbing challenge yet: supporting a childhood friend and pillar of the community who is accused of the brutal rape and murder of a high school girl. When Kate Townsend, the 17-year-old star athlete and valedictorian of St. Stephen's Prep School, is found dead near the Mississippi River, the entire population of Natchez turns its every resource toward finding out who snuffed out one of the city's brightest stars. But even before the investigation begins, Dr. Andrew Elliott pulls aside his longtime friend Cage and asks for legal advice. The middle-aged doctor informs Cage of his torrid love affair with Townsend and his plans to divorce his wife and move to Boston with the young woman while she attended Harvard. Cage reluctantly agrees to help his friend, but in his search for the real killer, he gets a glimpse of the secret reality behind St. Stephen's, which includes widespread drug use, rampant sexual promiscuity and an entire generation of disaffected youth. As more and more Natchez residents are sadistically murdered, can Cage follow the blood trail to the killer before his friend's career and reputation are ruined?
In a genre filled with shining stars, Iles' storytelling mastery specifically his unfathomably deep plot complexity and insightful character development blazes like a supernova. This dark and disturbing look at the abhorrent pitfalls facing children in 21st-century America is sure to satisfy even the most demanding suspense fan.
Paul Goat Allen is a freelance editor and writer in Camillus, New York.