I've never read anything by Greg Iles, myself. After reading The Devil's Punchbowl, my wife went out and bought two or three of his other books, so something must be happening here, right? I don't know much about Iles, or his other books, but it seems like some of the characters in this story might have appeared in some of his others. At least they could have.
The main protagonist, Penn Cage, seems like the kind of guy who was developed in a first or second novel, and keeps coming back because the author likes him so much. As is often the case, its probably because Penn Cage is the author's alter ego. I know, 'here he goes, on some psycho-babble rant', but I think we can agree on this: author's put a lot of themselves into stories, and sometimes it shows. I don't know Greg Iles, but come on. Here are the stats; you can decide for yourself.
Penn Cage is a 6'-2", fit, handsome, mid-forties ex-lawyer, ex- Assistant DA, ex-writer (novels, and quite successful, thank you very much), who is now the mayor... the Mayor... of his beloved hometown, overlooking the Mississip.* He's got a smart, pretty young daughter, who's helping him come to grips with the tragic loss of his wife, and the mother of said daughter.
Penn Cage also has a super-fine girlfriend who is smart, sexy, understanding, dedicated to work and family, beloved by his own family, and can handle a gun. She also doesn't mind too terribly if she has to go naked now and again in order to get things done, and says things like, 'Are we going to be friends with benefits?'
Oh, and both his first and last name have four letters. And they sound cool. But, I know, that's just being picky, I'm crazy, whatever.
Alter ego or not, I'm not saying that this is a crummy book, I kind of liked it, I just didn't love it. The story was well written, and the characters were pretty well fleshed out. The plot line developed nicely throughout, and I was surprised a little along the way. What I didn't like was the brutality. If this was a movie it would be Rated-R, for strong, pervasive violence. It wasn't the whole way through, but when it got to violent parts, there wasn't any fooling around. I'm not talking about using a shotgun when a pistol would do it, I'm talking about things that people do that are just deplorable. As in, 'Oh he's not gonna... oh yuck, that's disgusting; who would do something like that.'
I'm sure people do, I'd just rather not read about it.
*I made up this nickname for the Mississippi River. I'm sure no one actually says that, that's me freestyling.