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Business & Investments
by Greg Iles
An FBI agent, Alex Morse, has come to Dr. Shepard's office in Natchez, Mississippi, to unmask a killer. A local divorce attorney has a cluster of clients whose spouses have all died under mysterious circumstances. Agent Morse's own brother-in-law was one of those clients, and now her beloved sister is dead. Dr. Shepard's own beautiful wife consulted this lawyer one week ago. Can he and Morse catch a killer?
Mississippi novelist Greg Iles likes to tell the story of a book signing in Seattle during which a reader told him that after finishing THE QUIET GAME, he and his wife drove 2,500 miles just to see Natchez, Mississippi, the thriller’s setting.
When he began writing his ninth and most recent novel, TURNING ANGEL, Iles thought, “If people are going to be driving thousands of miles to see this place, they ought to know what it’s like before they get here. They don’t need some falsely romanticized view of what Natchez was 15 or 20 years ago.”
Now the question is, after reading Turning Angel, will people drive thousands of miles in the opposite direction? This time, fearful of the signs of decline he sees around him, Iles has incorporated his observations into his story. Call it literary tough love.
Iles, formerly an English major at the University of Mississippi, began writing fiction out of desperation. In 1990, when he was 29, his band broke up, “on the verge of making the next leap.” Married, with $10,000 in the bank, he fell back on what else he knew he could do. Working 18 hours a day on an idea he’d had a year before—involving Rudolf Hess’s flight to Britain during WWII—he wrote a 261,000-word draft. SPANDAU PHOENIX sold at auction and established Iles’s career.
Lest readers think Iles has been turning out a series of whodunits, the author distinguishes what he does: he writes “whydunits.” He explains, “If all I wanted to do with my time was to make up puzzles to fool people about who the murderer is, I’d just as soon shoot myself. Agatha Christie was doing that better 50 years ago than I could do it tomorrow. There’s no point in that. What counts is the motivation.”
When it comes to the audio versions, Iles is aware that he has one of the best readers available in Dick Hill. “He’s known for changing voices, one of the few who’s really good at it. I think that takes a lot of guts. I was once asked if I wanted to read. I flirted with the idea, but the truth is that with writing a book a year, I don’t have time.”
Iles is unequivocal about his preference for the uncut format—even though his books are available on audio abridged and unabridged. “Every time I get a note asking me to approve an abridgment, I almost die. It’s such a flawed vehicle from the start. There is a certain kind of novel that can take abridging. But if you’re dealing with a book that has depth and meaning, you’re just gutting the thing down to the plot. I’ve bought abridged versions, and without even having read the original, I can feel the missing links.”
Ultimately, the heart of Iles’s new book is Natchez—past and present. He is unapologetic about the fact that the slice of life he depicts—beginning with a murder seemingly without motivation and going on to racial politics, economic decline, and teens in peril, among other themes—is unquestionably dark.
“That’s because real life is very dark. My audience may never grow beyond a certain level because I honestly think that to have millions and millions of people buying your book, it’s got to be pretty inoffensive. You sort of have to hit a median, a common denominator. I don’t think I’m ever gonna hit that median. I’m never gonna let people off that easily.”—Michael J. Bandler
© AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Smooth prose, psychological depth and crafty plotting lift bestseller Iles's latest suspense thriller, which puts a fresh twist on a familiar theme-the cat-and-mouse game between an FBI agent and a fiendishly-clever serial killer. One personal tragedy after another has struck Alexandra Morse, a rising star in the FBI who specializes in hostage negotiation: her father's shooting death in a robbery, her mother's diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer, and a misstep on the job that left her face scarred and a fellow agent dead. Now Alex's sister, Grace, lies dying in a Jackson, Miss., hospital after suffering a stroke. Alex arrives from Washington just in time to hear Grace say that her husband has murdered her. After Grace's death, Alex learns that Dr. Eldon Tarver, a brilliant scientist in need of funds for research into developing a biological superweapon, has teamed with a Mississippi divorce attorney who offers select clients the opportunity to avoid a protracted court fight by arranging for their spouses to die. When Alex identifies the next intended victim, Dr. Chris Shepard, she goes undercover as one of the idealistic doctor's patients and soon finds herself in a race against Tarver as well as her own superiors, who have not sanctioned her investigation. This pulse-pounder is sure to be another bestseller for Iles (Turning Angel).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The new novel by the author of, among others, Mortal Fear (1996), 24 Hours (2000), and (most recently) Turning Angel (2005)begins with a big surprise. Dr. Chris Shepard, a doctor in Natchez, Mississippi (where the author lives), is visited by an FBI agent who tells him two things: a local divorce lawyer has a series of clients whose spouses have all died suspiciously, and Dr. Shepard's wife paid this lawyer a visit about a week ago. Now agent Alex Morse wants Dr. Shepard to help her trap a killer. If Iles has a trademark, a single literary feature that identifies him, it's his intriguing, ordinary-people-in-extraordinary-situations premises that hook readers immediately, forcing us to read on. How will Chris Shepard, a successful doctor in a seemingly happy marriage, react to the news that his wife may be planning to have him killed? Will Alex Morse, the deeply troubled FBI agent (she's still recovering from her own brush with death), confuse professional responsibility with personal interest? Before you know it, you've reached the last page, and you're all out of breath--but you've had one hell of a ride. Plot-driven is too often used as a pejorative term; Iles shows the other side. David Pitt
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