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Monday, April 6, 2015

In which the mystery book group heads back in time and down South with Natchez Burning...

It's time again to relate the saga of my monthly mystery book group meeting.  I love these meetings and really enjoy discussing mysteries of all sorts with other avid readers.  And, believe me, the members of this group are avid and involved readers.  We have a great time.  Our author for this month was the very talented Greg Iles and the book for discussion was Natchez Burning, which comes in at 800+ pages.  A long one and it's only the first book in a trilogy.  Because of that, members could select any book by Greg Iles to read, but they also knew that we would be talking about Natchez Burning more specifically - including the possibility for spoilers.  Most all the attendees took the 800 page plunge.

First though, let me tell you about our goodies.  We meet at a branch library and so we don't eat at every meeting, but all are free to bring treats as the spirit moves them.  We have official potluck sharing quarterly.  At this meeting, we had a member bring the most beautiful Easter cookies.  Mine was so lovely that I had to take a picture to share.  The Texas state flower is the bluebonnet and look what was on my cookie!  I loved it and decided it was almost too pretty to eat.


OK, back to Greg Iles and Natchez Burning.  We talked about the author in general for a while, sharing a few bits of information.  He's a native of Natchez, Mississippi.  He writes mostly thrillers set in the Deep South and has a particular knack of including the Southern setting in interesting ways.  He started out writing standalone novels and then began writing some with Penn Cage as the main protagonist.  Is Penn Cage based on Greg Iles?  Well, partially, I think.  There are similarities.  A few years ago, Mr. Iles was involved in a horrific car accident, which left him critically injured.  It took him many, many months to recover.  He was in the process of writing Natchez Burning at the time and when he began writing again, he realized that the story he wanted to tell was much bigger than he first imagined.  This book and the two that will follow, The Bone Tree (available later this month) and Unwritten Laws (2016), tell a broad spectrum story of the civil rights era of the 1960's.  It's an epic tale.

Most of our group liked Natchez Burning or loved it.  We had a couple who were dismayed by some of the brutal actions of characters in the stories.  And make no mistake, there are despicable acts.  Some members stated that they had marathon reading sessions trying to finish - it was gripping in the extreme.  Almost all are eager to read The Bone Tree.  We did discuss more about the book, but one question I posed to the group ended up taking most of our time.

I wasn't sure how well the question would work or if people would be comfortable sharing, but as our group is mostly made up of people who were at least small children in the 1960's, I asked "where were you at that time and what do you remember".  We had a very good response.  Many remembered the big events of the 1960's - President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King being assassinated - the Freedom Riders - riots in cities - protests on college campuses.  Some told of where they lived at the time - states in the North or states in the South and what the atmosphere was like.  One member lived in Washington DC and so had vivid memories of the political aspects.  I found it all fascinating and I think everyone was interested.  And it let us all know more about each other and our backgrounds.  It was an informative sharing session.

Natchez Burning has been nominated for Best Novel in the 2015 Thriller Awards and also for Best Novel at the Barry Awards.  Also, it's just been announced that it will become a cable series through Sony and Amazon Studios.  Will be looking forward to it.

Our book for the May meeting is The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) and I need to get busy reading that one.


30 comments:

  1. I've to admit I'm intimidated by thick volumes. But this sounds like a great series to begin with so I may have to consider reading it.

    And ooh, that cookie is too lovely to eat!

    I've The Cuckoo's Calling in my pile so I'm looking forward to your thoughts on it next month.

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    1. I'm looking forward to reading The Cuckoo's Calling too. And if I like it, the next book is already available.

      Ditto on the cookie (but I did eat it eventually).

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  2. This is on my list to read. I had it checked out once, but it was so long and I had so many other books, I ended up taking it back without even opening it.

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    1. It is long. Maybe a summer read?

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  3. I do enjoy reading about your book club meetings, Kay.

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  4. I've been intimidated by the size of this book (and series!), but I decided to borrow the audio from my library. I'm #2 in line, so it won't be long, but I may hold off reading it until next fall when I have a long flight to Europe. The nice thing about borrowing audio books from my library is that I can download them now and transfer them to my Nano. Once they're on the Nano, they don't expire! :)

    That cookie is beautiful! I wouldn't want to eat it, either. Well, maybe after taking a picture. ;)

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    1. That is a good thing - the no expiring thing. And the audio will be long.

      Yes, that's what I did. Took the picture. Then ate it with my lunch. :-)

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  5. You've convinced me. I do remember the time period and the upheaval; the shattering assassination of J.F.K. and other assassinations that followed. I was afraid the book would be too brutal, too upsetting, but maybe if most of your book club liked or loved it, then I should give it a try.

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    1. It is brutal, but the times were brutal - as are some situations today. You might try it, Jenclair, and then if it's too much - no worries.

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  6. The 800 pages would put me off a bit, but hearing that everyone either liked or loved it cancels that out. And as a Brit I've always been fascinated by the whole race question of that period - we had/have our own race problems, of course, but they're so very different. And the cookie is gorgeous! Way too nice to eat...

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    1. It is interesting how the race issue has played out a little differently in different parts of the world. And still goes on today, unfortunately.

      Thanks about the cookie. I did eventually eat it. ;-)

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  7. Being able to share memories, of the time.... That is something, a lone reader, never gets to partake in. Your book group members are lucky.

    And oh, that cookie is a work of art! And it probably tasted as good, as it looks. At least, you have a posted picture of it. So its beauty will live forever, in your blog!!!!

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    1. It was very interesting, Tessa. We not all the same age, but a nice mix.

      It did taste good too!

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  8. Right now I'm so buried in books that really long books like that scare me off. I've heard good things about Natchez Burning I think the brutal acts would disturb me as well. Those cookies are amazing! I wouldn't have wanted to eat it it's so pretty.

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    1. I didn't want to eat it, but at least I took a picture. It tasted really good too. LOL

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  9. I've had this one on my shelf for awhile but haven't gotten around to it yet (that sucker is HUGE). I've heard nothing but good things about it, so I need to get around to it sometime soon. Glad your book group liked it and that it sparked an interesting discussion.

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    1. Yes, I know it's long. Maybe one day you'll have the time. :-)

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  10. I haven't read a Greg Isles book for years, I did enjoy his work though. This sounds a lot more intense and boy what a doorstop. Putting it on my wishlist.
    PS your book group sounds great and that cookie is lovely. I always take photos of beautiful desserts and treats, makes me feel less guilty for eating them lol

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    1. Exactly - I took the picture and then ate it right up. It was delicious. ;-)

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  11. I love hearing about your book club, Kay. Natchez Burning sounds like a good read, and I like big, thick books when they're well written and riveting. I'll have to add this to my list!

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    1. Well, this is definitely a big thick book. Hope you enjoy it if you decide to take it on.

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  12. That cookie is so pretty! I love it when book discussions not just focus on the book but also allow us to get to know the members better. This book sounds great but I don't know if my book group would be up for an 800 page book. I'll have to mention it though!

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    1. It is a long one, which is why I told my group that they didn't have to choose it if 800 pages was too long. Most chose it anyway, but they had the option.

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  13. We always have a great time and great discussions. And good treats! Also mini bundt cakes. Delicious!

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    1. We do have a good time. And, yes, mini bundt cakes too. Yum!

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  14. Very impressed that you had so many jump into such a big novel! If my book club does a book that big, we have to split it into 2 months. My parents both loved this one and now, seeing that it has to do with Civil Rights, I understand why; my dad was teaching Current Events in a high school during the 1960's so that was a big part of their lives although we lived no where near the south. That and the fact that they both love Iles. They've passed it along to me and I hope to get to it soon. Especially because I have The Bone Tree coming soon for a review.

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    1. Yes, I can see why your folks would be interested. I wasn't sure how many of my group would actually take the time to read this, but they are a pretty flexible and adventurous group. Plus I gave them plenty of lead time. I was thrilled that it was so well received. Iles is favorite author of mine and I always want others to like the same book that I do. :-)

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  15. I like Iles and have heard good things about this one.
    Enjoys Cuckoo's Calling - I really liked it.

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    1. Thanks. I'm planning on listening to it soon.

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Thanks for stopping by! I am so happy to hear your thoughts and will respond as soon as I can. Happy Reading!