The Devil's Punchbowl
Scribner, Jul 7 2009, $26.99
Former Houston prosecutor Penn Cage is elected mayor of his hometown Natchez, Mississippi on an economic platform to save the dying city. Currently five steamboats off the old slave market square offers casino gambling. With the looser atmosphere comes the high rollers and along with that Penn knows come vice and crime.
His childhood friend card dealer Tim Jessup tells Penn that the casinos offer dog fighting and dangerous sexual activity. Tim promises to bring proof to Penn, but before he can, he is found viciously murdered as a warning to other do-gooders. However, those running the illegal show while city officialdom wink threaten Penn and his family as they believe Tim gave him evidence as they tortured that confession out of him before they killed him. Another friend sneaks Penn’s family out of town; knowing his tweener daughter is safe the mayor is ready to clean up the floating casinos though their enemy seems to anticipate every move made against him.
The return of Penn (see TURNING ANGEL and THE QUIET GAME) is an exhilarating thriller that never slows down once Tim warns him about what is happening on the casino boats. Penn remains an ethical individual who refuses to turn away from the crime especially the violence as several other leading citizens prefer to do. Fans will relish Greg Iles strong tale of gambling on the Mississippi to bring jobs, but part of the employment opportunities are illegal and dangerous.