The Bone Tree (Penn Cage, #5, Natchez Burning, #2) picks up right where Natchez Burning left off as the Natchez Burning Trilogy continues. I would highly recommend reading NB before picking up a copy of this book, as you will have no idea what is happening and why.
Synopsis: Penn Cage and his fiancee, Caitlin Masters, continue on their quest to exonerate Penn’s father and prove the Double Eagles are behind civil rights murders dating back to the 1960s, hoping to eradicate the evil group for good. Penn and Caitlin must beat the odds, battling dangerous criminals with power reaching into the New Orleans mafia and the highest levels of Louisiana/Mississippi state government. FBI Agent John Kaiser also plans to use the Double Eagles to finally solve one of the most influential assassinations the world has known: that of President John F. Kennedy.
The Good: Overall, I would give this a 4 out of 5 stars. Greg Iles is a wonderful suspense writer. His style is direct and straightforward, with a lot of tension, anticipation and thrill laced throughout. This trilogy is not a “whodunit” per se, as the author tells the reader (and the novel’s hero) exactly who the villains are and exactly what they are doing. I find this tactic very interesting as you get to watch things happen from many perspectives and see each party reacting to the others, and you get to understand the why throughout the whole story instead of in one big explanation at the end. Also, this book is over 800 pages but, as always, Iles does not cease to please and keeps you turning the pages. And that book cover …
The Bad: My expectations were definitely high after having sailed through Natchez Burning, but this one didn’t grab me as much as NB did. For one thing, the author didn’t catch up the reader very well on what had happened in the previous novel. I had read NB about a month before but had to refer back to catch myself up. I then got a little bored through the middle when the focus shifts for a time solely to the JFK assassination conspiracy. That entire part could have been condensed to a few sentences, in my opinion; it felt laborious to me. This story is also pretty dense because of the many different perspectives given, so there is also a LOT going on at all times. And the chaos is all supposedly happening in a matter of days… Finally, I am not sure why Iles calls this “The Bone Tree” because there is a heck of a lot of buildup, but we only end up spending a small amount of time actually at the Bone Tree, with a rather underwhelming result. I really wanted more from that aspect and I hope Iles spends more time on it in the final book of the trilogy, Mississippi Blood.
The Ugly: The rating.
Rated: DIRT. Most of the novel could really be rated High as there is definitely some language but very little violence and sex (and no details on anything). And there are significantly fewer offensive things in The Bone Tree than there were in Natchez Burning. However, I must still give this a rating of DIRT for the last third, where we encounter plenty of bad language, including more than 20 instances of the f-word; accounts of some very violent acts, with the novel getting more violent toward the very end; and brief accounts of child abuse.