Greg Iles should be ashamed of himself. I had shit to do yesterday. Important shit, I tell ya. But I spent all of yesterday (and yesternight, as my three-year-old son would say) devouring the last 250 pages of yonder book. Past a certain point, I couldn’t stop reading. Iles wouldn’t let me. I regret nothing.
Turning Angel is the second book I’ve read by Iles, and the second book in the Penn Cage series. I expected a similar setup and delivery as I received in the first Penn Cage novel, The Quiet Game, because, you know, if it ain’t broke, why fix it, right? Well, Greg Iles likes to do things differently. At about the 450-page mark, the place where Iles dropped Cage into a courtroom in the first book, Iles flipped the script and took me in an entirely different direction. I said this next bit in my review of the previous installment in this series and I’ll say it again: In a world filled to the brim with James Patterson and his clones, someone who respects the craft of writing enough to try something different in every book is refreshing.
The best parts of this book are not in the synopsis. That’s how it should be. The blurb would have you believe that this is some average, run-of-the-mill mystery/thriller. That is not the case. Iles has skills. Not only can he write, but he can tell a story like nobody’s business. His stuff is captivating and exciting. More than once, I found myself yelling at my paperback. His novels are gruesome and fun and emotional. But, most importantly, they make you think.
In The Quiet Game, Iles tackled race. That topic is prevalent in Turning Angel as well, but this time Iles ruminates on the age of consent and maturity. There is a strong theme and tone to this book, and you just don’t see that these days outside of literary novels. The moral dilemmas touched upon herein will likely make you uncomfortable. But that’s what good literature does. It challenges you. The decisions Penn has to make are career-killers. They are life-altering. And watching this man’s struggle was utterly fascinating.
In summation: I have many more Iles books to get through and I plan to take my time. An author like this is rare: someone able to tell an engaging tale while retaining literary merit. Turning Angel is as good, if not better, than its predecessor. My highest possible recommendation.
Final Judgment: Black Pearl straight to the vein.