Author: Greg Iles
Penn Cage #2
The second book in the Penn Cage series drops the page count but ups the ridiculousness. A few years after the events of The Quiet Game, Penn is on the school board of his daughter’s private school when he hears the news of the death of the sexy valedictorian Kate Townsend under mysterious circumstances. Almost immediately afterward, he’s told by his good friend Dr. Drew Elliott that Drew’s been having an affair with Kate for months and the two planned to run off together. Penn reluctantly agrees to help Drew, which he’ll need as Drew ends up getting arrested for murder and set for trial a week later. Penn needs all of his resources to solve this crime, including his own sexy teenage babysitter Mia, a septuagenarian local attorney, and all his connections on the force.
The first thing that stood out about this book was how closely the plot set reminded me of Sleep No More, another book where a local guy thinks he’s going to get arrested for murder when he’s really only having an affair and Penn Cage represents him even though a super wealthy writer/retired prosecutor. The main suspects for the murder are Dr. Drew, Marko (a foreign exchange student who deals drugs at school), and Cyrus (the main drug dealer for the whole community). What do they all have in common? They’re all connected to pain pills and all had obsessive desires to have sex with Kate.
It’s a small suspect pool, but the body count that follows is much higher than Penn’s prior adventure in Natchez. Plenty of people die over the course of the book, and there’s even a ridiculous section where Penn witnesses somebody get killed, even holding him to hear his last words, then goes to another location and witnesses somebody who was just stabbed, and holds him to hear his dying words. With as corrupt as the local law enforcement is made out to be in this book, I’d think that Cage would at least be detained for questioning after this string of events, but instead he’s free to keep running his Nancy Drew quest.
As far as character development, Cage’s relationship with Caitlin from the last book jumps from their initial meet and courtship in The Quiet Game to its petering out here. Likewise, we continue to be told what a great dad Penn is, but his daughter has probably 3 lines in this book and they’re pretty much all about how much she loves her babysitter Mia. Speaking of the babysitter, Iles spends a good portion of the book creating sexual tension between Penn and Mia, mirroring how he would handle the same issues that brought down Dr. Drew.
As a mystery novel, I thought this was much worse than The Quiet Game. The action sequences felt a bit more shoehorned into the plot than organic. The book did take an interesting turn towards the end with Penn sidelined and unaware of what’s going on with the overall plot, but the actual resolution afterward felt a bit like the end of Die Hard: With a Vengeance in that Mia’s solution for what to do was unrealistic in its likelihood of success and Penn’s decision to go along and be present for it all was equally puzzling (that movie is my go to example of how a story can go off the rails and totally screw up an ending). I’m still enjoying Penn the character and the large cast of personalities filling the town but the rest of this book was a bit of a mess.