The third novel in the Mississippi Burning
series, American author Greg Iles’s novel, Mississippi Blood
(2017), takes place in the rural town of Natchez, where a racist faction known as the Double Eagles have held power for generations. In an attempt to clear his father of murder, former prosecutor and current city mayor Penn Cage, who has experienced firsthand the damage wrought by the Double Eagles, attempts to bring the group to its knees. The audiobook version of Mississippi Blood
received an Audie Award nomination in the thriller/suspense category.
The novel opens with Penn discussing the depths of his grief. His fiancée, Caitlin, lost her life at the hands of the Double Eagles as she attempted to research their volatile history and powerful influence over Natchez. However, grief isn't the only complex emotion Penn is working through. He harbors great anger toward his father, who he thinks got Caitlin interested in the Double Eagles and is therefore at least partially responsible for her death. Penn has also just learned about the existence of a half-brother, Lincoln. Much to Penn's shock, their father, Tom, a once-respected doctor, had an affair with his African American nurse, Viola, back in the late 1960s, and Lincoln was the result of that union.
Now, Lincoln accuses Tom of killing Viola. He successfully urges the D.A. to charge Tom with murder. But Tom asserts his innocence, claiming Viola's cancer had worsened to the latter stages, and she had begged him to dose her with a lethal amount of morphine, which he did.
This, however, is not the story told by the crime scene. Forensic examinations prove that Viola did not die of a morphine overdose but an adrenaline overdose. Tom swears he did not inject Viola with adrenaline
Rumors further complicate matters. Word spreads that the police purposely misplaced evidence that could help Tom's case. Other evidence, including an audiotape and two videotapes—one of which reportedly contains footage of Viola's death—mysteriously disappears.
Meanwhile, the D.A. builds a case, suggesting that Tom killed Viola to prevent the people of Natchez from finding out about the affair. The prosecution's theory is that Tom, being a prominent figure in the town, didn't want to lose his reputation, especially with the Double Eagles having such sway in the community and working in cahoots with the sheriff's department.
As this drama unfolds, Penn unearths Viola's own ties to the Double Eagles. In the 1960s, group members gang-raped her in hopes the attack would lure her brother Jimmy and his friend Luther—both civil rights activists—out of hiding, which would allow the Double Eagles to silence them. The group then apprehended the two men and held them at gunpoint. In the meantime, the leader of Double Eagles, Frank Knox, visited Tom's office after sustaining a work injury. Viola refused to treat him, but Tom forced her to. She then filled a syringe with air and injected it directly into Frank's veins, killing him.
Shortly afterward, the Double Eagles kidnaped Viola, taking her to the dingy shop where they were holding Jimmy and Luther. The gang forced the two men to watch as they again raped and tortured Viola. Then, they tortured and killed Jimmy and Luther, forcing Viola to watch. Viola made it out alive, but only after the Double Eagles threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone what she saw or experienced there. She ran off to Chicago but returned years later, hoping the threat had passed.
The trial commences, and neither Tom nor his lawyer, Quentin Avery, discuss their defense strategy with Penn. Penn suspects that the Double Eagles were the ones who killed Viola—finally making good on their promise—but Tom wants to take the blame so that his family won't face retaliation by the group.
As the trial nears its close, Penn discovers another facet of the story. His mother, Peggy, also visited Viola on the night she died. Video surveillance caught her injecting Viola with morphine, but Tom arranged for the video to go missing. Though he himself had injected her with morphine, the dose was not strong enough, and when Peggy arrived, Viola asked her to inject her with more. Though Peggy's dose also wasn't strong enough, Tom didn't want his wife brought up on murder charges, so he took the fall and destroyed the video evidence.
Just before the verdict, Tom changes his plea to guilty and receives a three-year sentence. Penn assumes that Tom feels guilty about the hardscrabble lives Viola and Lincoln have had to live and accepts time in jail as his just punishment.
In the end, Tom and Lincoln have a bit too much drink and decide that they need to kill the head of the Double Eagles. If they don't, they fear Tom's fate while in prison. In order to save Tom and avenge Viola, the half-brothers set out to get rid of the Double Eagles' ringleader.