cover image Turning Angel

Turning Angel

Greg Iles, . . Scribner, $25.95 (502pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-3471-9

A string of unique bestsellers (24 Hours , etc.) is testament to Iles's ability to leap genres and geography. His latest, a gripping legal mystery set in Natchez, Miss., proves he doesn't have to stray far from home to explore the darkest recesses of the human heart. Penn Cage—lawyer, author and protagonist of The Quiet Game— has just learned that his best friend, Dr. Andrew Elliott, was the secret lover of 17-year-old Kate Townsend, a high school senior found raped and murdered. "Drew was our golden boy, a paragon of everything small-town America holds to be noble, and by unwritten law the town will crucify him with a hatred equal to their betrayed love." Though Penn is furious with Drew for his relationship with Kate, he signs on to represent him in court and unearth the real murderer. Things look bleak for Drew as a DA with political aspirations comes up with plenty of evidence against him. When people start to die and the secret lives of the town's high school students are revealed, Penn begins to doubt not only Drew, but himself as well. This is a study of character and morality, but also of place, as Iles shows Natchez to be emblematic of racial, social and economic issues. The job of great fiction is to entertain, elucidate and educate while keeping readers nailed to their chairs; this does all of that brilliantly. (Dec. 27)