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The Devil's Punchbowl (Penn Cage) Paperback – December 29, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 575 customer reviews
Book 3 of 5 in the Penn Cage Novels Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bestseller Iles's stellar third suspense novel to feature Penn Cage (after Turning Angel) finds the former prosecutor and bestselling novelist serving as the mayor of Natchez, Miss., his hometown. Frustrated by his limited ability to change the system, Cage is plunged into a deadly duel of wits with some bad guys after a childhood friend, Tim Jessup, now a card dealer, alerts him to illegal dog fighting and sexual abuse connected with a floating casino. Before Jessup can deliver proof of his allegations, he's tortured and killed. Convinced Jessup managed to pass on the evidence to the mayor, Jessup's boss confronts and threatens Cage. Daniel Kelly, an old friend working for a private security organization, lends support, sneaking Cage's 11-year-old daughter out of town to safety. Iles brilliantly creates opportunities for his characters to demonstrate principle and courage, both on a large and small scale, making this much more than just an exciting read. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A knockout thriller that's just the right degree of chilly to combat the dog days of summer... Iles' knack for perfectly integrating character and plot could serve as a master's class for other authors." -- The Dallas Morning News

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Product Details

  • Series: Penn Cage (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 707 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Star Books (2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141652455X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416524557
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (575 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bill Garrison VINE VOICE on July 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
For many years, Greg Iles appealed to me as an author because each book was a totally unique experience. With THE DEVIL'S PUNCHBOWL, Iles brings back crusading lawyer/writer/polician Penn Cage for his third appearance in a novel that tackles corruption in Natchez, the cost of doing the right thing, and the choices one must make. Although the story never draged, the novel seemed too long and the book lacked the typical internal struggles that have haunted the characters in other Iles novels.

Cage has been mayor for two years, and was instrumental in expanding the riverboat casino industry in the city. Cage is considering resigning to spend more time with his family when a childhood friend Tim Jessup tells Cage of some horrible evils and corruption occuring on one boat, the Magnolia Queen. Jessup offers evidence of prostitution and dog fighting and promises to get more if Cage is willing to help. Cage agrees, but Jessup is murdered the next night and then his entire family is threatened by the sauve Englishman Jonathan Sands. Sands wants the evidence Jessup took, or Cage's family could be in danger.

Cage is conflicted and doesn't know if he should fight Sands, or just look for the evidence, surrender it, and ignore Sands like every one else in the town. Of course, Cage decides to fight. He enlists the help of ex-girlfriend Caitlin Masters, who left town when he decided to run for mayor. He also has the services of Danny McDavvit, a pilot, Kelly, a ruthlessly efficient soldier, a ex-marine sniper and an old Texas Ranger. With his all star team in town to fight Sands, the action scenes are numerous and exciting.

The best parts of the book are the portrayal of the dog fighting culture. It is new and fresh and enlightening.
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed a couple of the earliest Greg Iles' novels (Spandau Phoenix, Quiet Game) and found them to be uniquely suspenseful with great complexity. While still good and better than a lot of other new fiction, the last few books were not quite as good as the earlier ones, in my opinion. Iles took his time completing this one, and it shows. I would much rather wait for a more finely-tuned yarn than to get a lesser product on schedule or in a shorter time. Devil's Punchbowl was worth the wait. Penn Cage is the best character Iles has crafted, and he's back in this novel. Greg Iles is a great storyteller, but what makes his best novels special is how the story is unfolded and shaped and how much extra depth there is besides just the plot. It's so much more than a mere whodunit that is the model for so many other popular authors. Looking forward to the next one - keep them coming!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As many know, I am an uber Greg Iles fan. Have been since book one - although my favorites are Mortal Fear, and The Quiet Game.
For those of you not familiar with Penn Cage, his kith and kin, it would be good to read The Quiet Game, which holds one of my favorite quotes ever, told by a former FBI agent Stone, "The hour of justice does not strike on the dials of this world."
This outing Iles is back in his element, the old south dealing with the new. Now there are offshore gambling boats and the money and corruption that comes with that -
Time has passed and Caitlin and Penn have gone their separate ways, and he has also broken up with another lady - Annie, his daughter, has grown into a well adjusted pre-teen, thanks to Penn's parents.
Penn's boyhood friend, Tim Jessup, a card dealer at the Magnolia Queen, has uncovered horrible things going on - not only prostitution, but dogfighting off grounds.
For those of you who haven't been familiar with dogfighting, those of us in the south who have dealt with hearing about Michael Vick's involvement however extensive, with a dogfighting ring, the horrid 'sport' is heavily written about and a large part of this book. I was sickened by the extent, but Iles shows us it is beyond any thriller book author can possibly imagine, more cruel than anyone could think up - all in the cause of money.
This is not for the feint of heart.
When Penn's friend Tim is murdered, Penn had been waffling between quitting his mayorship of Natchez and leaving, but when his friend's death happens, he goes forth full steam.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this novel. However...

The heroes were too superheroic. When they gathered, it was not so much the Seven Samurai as it was the X-Men.

The bad guys were too unabashedly villainous. Black hats, black hearts, not much character complexity.

Violence and sadistic sex were too prevalent and too salacious.

The story is about second tier, legalized casino gambling on the Mississippi. Easy money attracts the scum of the earth, camouflaged within regulatory loop holes, bringing with them purveyors of money laundering, prostitution, and other illegal activities: most notably, in this story, dog fighting. Their power in a small community looking to slow its economic decline is absolutely corrupting. At the casino, the house always wins. The devotees are always in debt. And when that happens, the house owns you and it is just a matter of time before the master calls on you to pay up, never on the square.

Penn Cage, the town's idealistic mayor, is frustrated. He sought elective office to help rebuild and remake the town where he grew up. But politics keeps getting in the way of progress, and he's looking longingly toward the end of his term. He's also looking longingly at media mogulette Caitlin Masters, the one who got away. She still owns the house across the street from his, and she still drops into town from time to time to oversee her interests in the local newspaper. But she's moved on. Or has she?

Against this backdrop, a childhood friend whose path through life has hit the skids seeks out Penn's help - to save the town from corruption. It seems the floating pleasure palace is a façade for unspeakably nefarious activities, and he has the goods on the evil doers.
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