The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

October 9, 2009

Book review: ‘Devil’s Punchbowl’ powerful, but not for weak stomachs

“The Devil’s Punchbowl”

By Greg Iles

(compact disc audiobook)

Penn Cage, a former Houston prosecutor and successful novelist, was elected mayor of Natchez, Miss., on an economic platform of promises to save the dying city and fix the school system. Like many cities, Natchez is heavily reliant on riverboat gambling to boost the local economy and has five gambling boats nearby, including the Magnolia Queen.

Tim Jessup, a former childhood friend who works as a dealer on the Magnolia Queen, shows Penn pictures that depict illegal activities including prostitution of underage girls and dog fighting, many taking place aboard and sponsored by the Magnolia Queen. Penn is late for the second meeting with Tim and Penn’s friend is murdered before he can give the mayor even more incriminating information regarding the activities of the Magnolia Queen.

Irish Riverboat casino manager Jonathan Sands and his sidekick, Seamus Quinn, believe that before Tim died, he gave Penn the incriminating evidence. Sands threatens to torture and kill Penn’s girlfriend, Caitlin, and Penn’s entire family if Penn doesn’t return the evidence he supposedly possesses. In order to protect his loved ones, Penn must come to a decision on whether to abandon his principles and ignore the illegal activities of the casino or continue his quest for the truth and to vindicate Tim’s claims of criminal activity at the casino.

Due to his distrust of and the corruption within the local police force, Penn assembles his own resourceful and powerful team of men to protect his loved ones. At a point in his investigation, Penn discovers that a high-powered Justice Department lawyer is protecting Sands for his cooperation in a sting. Penn and his team must stay ahead of the formidable Sands and Quinn, who appear to anticipate Penn’s every move.

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