Iles, Greg 1961(?)–
Iles, Greg 1961(?)–
PERSONAL: Born 1961 (some sources say 1960), in Stuttgart, West Germany (now Germany); married; children: one daughter, one son. Education: University of Mississippi, earned degree, 1983. Hobbies and other interests: Music, song writing.
AWARDS, HONORS: Mississippi Author's Award for Fiction, for Black Cross.
Spandau Phoenix, Dutton (New York, NY), 1993.
Black Cross, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.
Mortal Fear, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.
The Quiet Game, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.
24 Hours, Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.
Dead Sleep, Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.
Sleep No More, Putnam (New York, NY), 2002.
The Footprints of God, Scribner, (New York, NY), 2003.
Blood Memory, Scribner, (New York, NY), 2005.
Turning Angel, Scribner, (New York, NY), 2005.
Iles's novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
24 Hours, Columbia Pictures, 2002.
ADAPTATIONS: Sleep No More has been made into a sound recording by Brilliance Audio, 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Greg Iles is a writer of mystery and suspense novels who has mined his childhood in East Germany, where he grew up as the son of a U.S. embassy official, to find inspiration for some of his works. Iles's earliest novels feature latter-day Nazis and cold war-era international intrigue, and more recent works have included serial killers, kidnappers, and psychopaths. All of his works are noted for their intricate plotting, quick pace, and surprising endings. Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush echoed the sentiments of many critics with regard to Iles's books when she called his 24 Hours "a fast-paced, gripping novel of suspense and action." A longtime resident of Mississippi, Iles has also utilized the deep South as a setting for many of his books, and many critics have noted elements of the Southern Gothic style in his writing.
Iles's first novel, Spandau Phoenix, was a New York Times bestseller. It tells of a young German police sergeant's discovery of some yellowed old documents uncovered during the demolition of Spandau prison. In reality, the prison had housed Rudolph Hess, the infamous Nazi-era war criminal, who died in 1987. In Iles's tale, the real Hess remained free, carrying on Hitler's legacy while hiding in South Africa; a highly trained double was imprisoned in his place. The found papers reveal a plot dating back to 1941 but having modern-day ramifications, including the possible eradication of Israel by a neo-Nazi brotherhood. The sergeant's wife, along with a historian, translate the mysterious papers and embark on a mission to thwart the Nazi plot.
"Iles does a credible job of managing his large cast of characters and maintaining suspense," Mary Ellen Quinn wrote in a Booklist review of Spandau Phoenix. Library Journal contributor V. Louise Saylor, however, remarked that the novel "loses its impact long before the end of the drawn-out plot." Although finding fault with the story's "stock characters and melodramatic plot," a reviewer for Publishers Weekly called this debut novel "clearly written, with some entertaining speculation."
A contributor to Kirkus Reviews judged Iles's second bestseller, Black Cross, to be "a swift historical thriller of such brutal accomplishment that it vaporizes almost every cliché about the limits of the genre." Set during World War II, this novel revolves around a secret Allied mission to infiltrate a Nazi concentration camp, where the Reich is developing poison gases in a secret lab. The two men assigned to infiltrate the camp are to release a British poison gas, code-named "Black Cross," which is available to the Allies in only a limited amount. The action is devised as a warning to the Nazis to stop their research and prevent them from ever using their own supply of nerve gases against Allied troops. Because the raid is likely to kill everyone in the camp, including the prisoners and the British agents, the operatives modify the mission's original strategy—with harrowing results.
Praising Black Cross as "full of runaway-train excitement," a Kirkus Reviews contributor regarded it as "good enough to read twice." A Publishers Weekly writer concluded that Black Cross is "an unusually resonant, gripping thriller" deserving a place on any "recommended reading list of thrillers." John F. Harvey, writing in Armchair Detective, deemed the plot "more complex than those of most thrillers…. The novel makes the reader feel that he/she has been through a significant, emotionally rending and bitterly educational experience." Harvey added, "The work poses several life vs. death philosophical questions and discusses them in the heat of extreme wartime conditions." Emily Melton called the author and the story "remarkable" in a Booklist review. "This stunning, horrifying, mesmerizing novel will keep readers transfixed from beginning to end," she maintained.
Iles's third novel, Mortal Fear, is about the race to find a serial killer who stalks female victims on the Internet. The systems operator for an erotic online service becomes a suspect in the murders of subscribers around the country, then goes online himself, posing as a woman and potential victim in order to trap the real murderer. A contributor to the New York Time Book Review called Mortal Fear "more complicated than it needs to be," but labeled the technology involved in the computer chase "fascinating." "Iles scores high with this psychological thriller," Lori Dunn wrote in Library Journal, "easily accessible even to the computer-semiliterate." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly concluded, "Iles uses rich first-person narration and clever plotting to tell a sizzler of a thriller."
Natchez, Mississippi, is the setting for The Quiet Game, in which Penn Cage, an attorney-turned-author as well as a recent widower, returns to his home town from Houston and begins an investigation into a thirty-year-old murder case with racial overtones. Penn has personal reasons for conducting his investigation; he suspects the culprit is a former judge who is blackmailing his father in an attempt to ruin his medical practice. But the small Southern town does not take kindly to Penn's plans to dig into the past and upset their precarious social order. The FBI proves to be a hindrance as well, and soon enough Penn's family is endangered. Urged on by the family of the murdered man, Penn's quest becomes an obsession as he discovers cover-ups and lies that stretch all the way to J. Edgar Hoover. Booklist critic Brad Hooper praised The Quiet Game as a "deliciously complicated tale," and Library Journal contributor Thomas L. Kilpatrick called the book a "Southern superthriller that rivals John Grisham's best."
In 24 Hours the best laid plans of kidnappers Joe and his wife, Cheryl, go awry when they kidnap Abby, the diabetic five-year-old daughter of Dr. William Jennings and his wife, Karen. The kidnappers' goal is to receive ransom money and release the child within twenty-four hours, before federal authorities can investigate the crime—a scenario they have successfully carried out numerous times in the past. But Karen, who is being held hostage by Joe's lumbering and mentally incompetent cousin, and William, who is intercepted at a medical convention by the alluring Cheryl, fight back in order to save their daughter, who may die if she does not receive her daily insulin injection. As in other Iles stories, the FBI proves to be of little use, and William and Karen must outsmart the criminals on their own. Kilpatrick praised the book as a "thriller that will mesmerize to the bitter end." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that 24 Hours is a "brilliantly plotted tale [that] walks the razor's edge between cinematic excess and bone-chilling suspense."
Dead Sleep features Jordan Glass, an award-winning, New Orleans-based photojournalist who is traumatized by the disappearance of her twin sister. While on a vacation in Hong Kong, Jordan discovers a painting of her sister in a museum exhibition devoted to the works of an anonymous artist. The startling paintings all depict sleeping (or possibly dead) nude women; all the women are known to be missing. Shocked, Jordan must confront secrets from her past as she recognizes her sister may have been the victim of a serial killer. The trail leads to an eccentric art professor at Tulane University, a Vietnam-based French art collector, and the possibility that Jordan's father, a famous photographer himself, may not have been killed in Cambodia as she has long believed. The characters Daniel Baxter and Dr. Lenz from Mortal Fear figure into the plot as well. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called Iles a writer with "incredible range," and Dead Sleep a book with a "double surprise ending" and a "perfect final payoff." The book proved to transcend the genre of the murder mystery as well. Booklist critic Stephanie Zvirin called the work "atmospheric, sexy, and provocative in its depiction of the duality of human nature."
In Sleep No More, Iles tells the story of John Waters, a geologist in Natchez who suddenly finds himself attracted to a younger woman who knows everything about an affair he had years ago with a murdered woman. When this new woman is murdered as well, John begins to suspect that someone, possibly even his wife, may be out to ruin his life. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author's "fans will certainly enjoy the way he once again brings to piquant life his home turf—Natchez and the Mississippi Delta—and creates a character with an actual job."
More recent thrillers by Iles include The Footprints of God and Blood Memory. In the former, the author presents David Tennant, a government scientist working on an intelligent machine. When one of his colleagues dies, Tennant suspects foul play and thinks he may be next. He decides to run, with the help of his psychiatrist. Edward Karam, writing in People, commented that the author "addresses serious issues in popular form, and the pursuits are plenty hot." Iles tells the story of Dr. Catherine (Cat) Ferry in his thriller Blood Memory. Cat is an alcoholic forensic odontologist who discovers that she is pregnant by her married boyfriend, a cop. Cat also finds herself working on a series of murder cases in which the murderer bites and chews the victims after they are dead. There is something about this case, however, that sends Cat back home to Natchez with a sense that these murders are connected to the shooting death of her father when she was eight years old. Calling the novel "as southern Gothic as it gets," a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "It's clearly Cat's meow."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armchair Detective, spring, 1995, John F. Harvey, review of Black Cross, pp. 220-221.
Booklist, May 1, 1993, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of Spandau Phoenix, pp. 1569, 1576; November 1, 1994, Emily Melton, review of Black Cross, p. 459; July, 1999, Brad Hooper, review of The Quiet Game, p. 1894; July, 2000, Vanessa Bush, review of 24 Hours, p. 1974; June 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Dead Sleep, p. 1852; September 1, 2001, Ted Hipple, review of The Quiet Game, p. 126.
Entertainment Weekly, August 15, 2003, Wook Kim, review of The Footprints of God, p. 83.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1994, review of Black Cross, pp. 1431-1432; February 1, 2005, review of Blood Memory, p. 139.
Library Journal, April 15, 1993, V. Louise Saylor, review of Spandau Phoenix, p. 126; January, 1997, Lori Dunn, review of Mortal Fear, p. 146; August, 1999, Thomas L. Kilpatrick, review of The Quiet Game, p. 140; August, 2000, Thomas L. Kilpatrick, review of 24 Hours, p. 157; May 15, 2001, Michael Adams, review of The Quiet Game, p. 18; July, 2001, Jane Jorgenson, review of Dead Sleep, p. 123; February 15, 2005, Jeff Ayers, review of Blood Memory, p. 119.
New York Times Book Review, February 16, 1997, review of Mortal Fear, p. 28.
People, September 22, 2003, Edward Karam, review of The Footprints of God, p. 58.
Publishers Weekly, March 15, 1993, review of Spandau Phoenix, p. 67; October 9, 1995, review of Black Cross, p. 83; December 9, 1996, review of Mortal Fear, p. 59; July 5, 1999, review of The Quiet Game, p. 55; July 31, 2000, review of 24 Hours, p. 71; June 11, 2001, review of Dead Sleep, p. 58; July 23, 2001, Daisy Maryles and Dick Donahue, "A True 'Sleep'-er," p. 20; June 17, 2002, review of Sleep No More, p. 43.
Greg Iles Web site, http://www.gregiles.com (April 1, 2002).
Internet Movie Database, http://www.Imdb.com/ (October 30, 2005), filmography of Iles' work.