Author: Greg Iles
Greg Iles is a favorite of another attorney I work with, so recently I’ve read four of his books based on his recommendations although they’re not in my normal reading wheelhouse. The first few I read were World War II related fiction, Black Cross and Spadau Phoenix, and the second two were mystery thrillers set in Natchez, Mississippi. I did NOT enjoy Blood Memory, so I came in fairly skeptical starting True Evil but am happy to say this ended up being my favorite book I’ve read by the author so far.
The plot to True Evil is about Alex Morse, a beautiful FBI negotiator who now has a scarred face and a rogue mission of finding proof that her sister was murdered. It sounds ridiculous, and everything about it is, but the mystery at the center actually gave me nightmares. Agent Morse believes that there a divorce lawyer teaming up with a doctor committing a series of untraceable murders. When rich clients approach the divorce attorney, he targets ones to pitch a simple idea: if a divorce may cost a wealthy client half of their money and the love of (or time with) their children, wouldn’t they prefer an untimely death by natural causes will leave the surviving spouse with all of the money and the admiration of their family and peers instead? Would that be worth a large payment up front followed by several months of watching a terrible disease take your spouse?
Unfortunately, it seems all too real that some men (and women) would choose murder over divorce in these circumstances and Iles crafts a story where that is an option for them. **Slight spoilers follow** The method of the murder in this book involves an evil doctor literally sneaking into your home at night, using gas to keep you unconscious, and injecting you with virus that has been mixed with your cells (previously collected by your spouse) that will lead to a deadly blood cancer. When this scene takes place, the target character has a kid in the house with him and the doctor considers infecting the kid as well in order to judge the resistance of a child’s immune system to the virus.**Ends of spoilers** This scene was the one that actually kept me awake at night, but the overall plot of somebody giving you a cancer that would lie dormant but be fatal several months later on purpose was eerie enough to keep me interested in the story throughout.
In addition to Agent Morse trying to solve her sister’s murder, she also believes she has identified the next target in the form of a local doctor. (Just through these two Natchez books, it looks like Iles has a thing for female protagonists falling for doctors.) I enjoyed how Iles stretched out whether or not the doctor’s wife was in fact trying to kill him for about half the book, providing a secondary mystery but also giving the reader some answers well before the ending. Towards the very end of the book, the plot moves into action movie territory which didn’t entirely work for me. Once again Iles has a protagonist go off without adequate resources due to a compulsion to do everything herself, however at least in this book she is an FBI agent and she brought along some (very little) backup.
Much like Bret Easton Ellis or Stephen King, Greg Iles books take place in a shared universe. Here FBI agent John Kaiser shows back up, and there’s a certain attorney at the end that Iles seems to have written about frequently. While the result is a city that likely has a higher per capita murder rate than any other in America, it also provides some fun Easter eggs for readers who hop around his writing. I’m giving this one five stars even though the ending didn’t totally work for me. What did work stuck with me enough that I’m sure I’ll remember this one for awhile.