Why: The second book in the Natchez Burning trilogy (also Natchez Burning and Mississippi Blood), The Bone Tree had to make my TBR List because I’m a complete-ist. (This is a self-determined way to describe my compulsive need to finish a series even if I don’t like it.) Luckily, I was so caught up in Natchez Burning that there was no question I would immediately begin Greg Iles’ next installment.
Tonight death and time showed me their true faces.
The Story: *As with my previous review, this brief synopsis will share no spoilers!* After the climactic end to Natchez Burning, Penn Cage and his fiancé Caitlin Masters find themselves squarely in the crosshairs between former KKK and Double Eagle members and Penn’s father who is on the run from a murder charge. While Penn’s morals and values are tested to their brink, Caitlin is finding herself spiraling into a rapidly growing series of unsolved civil rights murders. Throw in pressures from a corrupt state police force and well-meaning FBI Agent with an alternate agenda, and nothing seems comfortable in Natchez.
Pain is proof of life.
Opinion: This is a perfect example of why I wait to read a series until it is complete! Iles has me invested in the lives of these characters, and I want closure! I need to know how it ends! Ok. Focus… This book makes it hard to know who you are pulling for. The intensity forces readers to consider how they would react in similar situations, yet there’s a good chance the answer is “I have no clue.” What is “just” and the “right” is ambiguous. These questions add depth and life to the work, consequently giving it a cinematic quality.
I already told you that I love Iles’ writing style, but it is worth repeating. Not only is it realistic as I’ve noted, but it also creates a pace that moves the hefty tome along – even with all the information being presented. Reading this feels like you accomplish a lot in a few pages.
“Mercy is a virtue you can’t afford.”
Recommendation: This is not a series to read out of order. However, if you made it through Natchez Burning, you owe it to yourself to read The Bone Tree. There is absolutely no drop off between book one and book two. Ultimately, enough backstory recaps are provided so that you don’t have to read the books in immediate succession, but I now want to go back to the first Penn Cage novel to get even more out of this trilogy. To be honest, I hope that helps pass the time until March 2017 when the final book is released! I will be recommending this book (and the Penn Cage series) to many of my serious reading friends.
This is the Deep South, Kaiser reflected, watching the bow lights of a string of barges round the river bend to the north, from Vicksburg and push slowly southward toward Baton Rouge. The real South.
Journaling Prompts: (I like to include questions with each of my reviews, but it is even better when questions are provided! These come from a reading guide from publisher HarperCollins.)
- What role does journalism play in Greg Iles’s work, and how does it affect the behavior of the various characters?
- Mayor Penn Cage and his father, Dr. Tom Cage, appear to be on separate paths in this story, though we know they probably agree on many things. Discuss their individual journeys and the moral choices they have to make.
- Are the residents of Natchez, Mississippi, still living in the past? And are past sins taking their toll on those living in the present?
- One antagonist in this novel is Lieutenant Colonel Forrest Knox, and he spent part of his career working in New Orleans. Is there a difference between the law and sense of justice in New Orleans and in Natchez?
- We see more of FBI Special Agent John Kaiser in The Bone Tree. How do his goals differ from Penn’s and Tom’s?
- How does Tom’s history converge with the events leading up to the assassination of JFK? Does Tom know what’s happening around him during this time?
- Sins of the past that have enshrouded Natchez for decades appear to be impenetrable. What does Penn really think can be done to save those he loves? And is justice even possible in such a place?
- Much of the novel is centered around what Tom has done—or is suspected of doing—in the past. There is an old saying to the effect that the sins of the father will be put upon the son. If that’s true in this story, what sin is Penn guilty of and how does that affect his family?
- Describe Caitlin Masters’ role at The Bone Tree. Is she driven by journalistic pursuit or some higher form of justice? Ultimately, why does she choose to take this journey alone and not with her fiancée, Penn?
- What do you think the final novel in the trilogy, Mississippi Blood, will uncover? Do you think Penn Cage will come out unscathed?