2015 Book 117: THE BONE TREE Review

The Bone Tree (Penn Cage #5) by Greg Iles
ISBN: 9780062311115 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062311146 (ebook)
ASIN: B00M70YWKK (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow & Company

Greg Iles continues the electrifying story begun in his smash New York Times bestseller Natchez Burning in this highly anticipated second installment of an epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice, featuring Southern lawyer Penn Cage.

Former prosecutor Penn Cage and his fiancee, reporter and publisher Caitlin Masters, have barely escaped with their lives after being attacked by wealthy businessman Brody Royal and his Double Eagles, a KKK sect with ties to some of Mississippi’s most powerful men. But the real danger has only begun as FBI Special Agent John Kaiser warns Penn that Brody wasn’t the true leader of the Double Eagles. The puppeteer who actually controls the terrorist group is a man far more fearsome: the chief of the state police’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, Forrest Knox.

The only way Penn can save his father, Dr. Tom Cage–who is fleeing a murder charge as well as corrupt cops bent on killing him–is either to make a devil’s bargain with Knox or destroy him. While Penn desperately pursues both options, Caitlin uncovers the real story behind a series of unsolved civil rights murders that may hold the key to the Double Eagles’ downfall. The trail leads her deep into the past, into the black backwaters of the Mississippi River, to a secret killing ground used by slave owners and the Klan for over two hundred years . . . a place of terrifying evil known only as “the bone tree.”

The Bone Tree is an explosive, action-packed thriller full of twisting intrigue and deadly secrets, a tale that explores the conflicts and casualties that result when the darkest truths of American history come to light. It puts us inside the skin of a noble man who has always fought for justice–now finally pushed beyond his limits.

Just how far will Penn Cage, the hero we thought we knew, go to protect those he loves?

The Bone Tree is the fifth book to feature lawyer-turned author-turned politician Penn Cage and the second book in the trilogy that began with Natchez Burning. The underlying premise in both books is the discovery of the truth about a series of racially motivated/civil rights murders, mutilations, and rapes that occurred in the 1960s at the hands of the Double Eagles. One victim of this groups’ violence was the Dr. Tom Cage’s black nurse, Viola Turner. Mrs. Turner was raped not once but twice at the hands of the Double Eagles and her brother was viciously murdered by them. Fast forward forty years and Viola Turner returned to Mississippi to die, even though she was warned to never return. Although dying of cancer, Ms. Turner is being treated by her former boss (and lover), Dr. Tom Cage. When Viola Turner does die, her son Lincoln Turner is sure it is murder and accuses Dr. Cage as the murderer. Now if you think that’s not enough to deal with, in the background we find two different journalists attempting to uncover the dirty truths of the racial murders back in the 1960s and locate the infamous “Bone Tree”, and then the FBI shows up with information that may link the Double Eagles and the local mafia with the murders of not only President Kennedy, but also Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Bone Tree begins pretty much just where Natchez Burning ends. The action takes place over the course of only four days, but there is a lot crammed into those four days. Unfortunately, there are a lot of good people that are killed as a result of the journalistic and police investigations. The journalists, FBI, and Penn Cage must all work around corrupt police forces, corrupt businessmen, and, of course, the corrupt members of the Double Eagles who are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their legacy and way of life. The bad guys are willing to bribe, threaten, or kill anyone that gets in their way, and sadly Penn Cage is pushed to the point where he is willing to not only bend but break the rules to arrive at the truth.

Just as with Natchez Burning, The Bone Tree shows that we can never really know someone, whether it’s our parents or spouse. People keep secrets. Some of those secrets are kept in fear of retaliation and some are kept out of shame. Both Penn and Tom Cage are trying to come to grips with this idea as Tom Cage fights to survive to see another day and Penn fights to protect his family. The Bone Tree also shows just how far a good man is willing to go to protect loved ones. There’s a lot going on in The Bone Tree, but somehow the 816 pages didn’t feel like 816 pages. Yes, this is a long and involved read, but that’s primarily because there is so much going on and there are a lot of characters and action intersecting in the main plot and subplots. I wish I could say I read this in one sitting, but even I have to sleep. This was another amazing suspense-thriller by Mr. Iles that I didn’t want to put down, even when I could barely keep my eyes closed. Are all the questions raised in Natchez Burning answered? Are the bad guys arrested and held accountable for their current and past misdeeds? I could tell you, but I’ll just say read the book to find out. If you enjoy well-written and intricately plotted suspense thrillers or if you’ve read Natchez Burning, then you’ll want to grab a copy of The Bone Tree ASAP. I recommend waiting until the weekend to read this as you won’t want to put it down. Alternatively, you could simply take a few days personal leave to read this book. What, you haven’t read Natchez Burning? Okay, I’m in shock, especially since I told you (okay, strongly suggested) to read it last year. What are you waiting for? Now you’ll need to take a week off so you can read both Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree. I plan on taking a week off in a few months just to reread both of these books . . . perhaps I’ll just take a week or more to reread all of the books featuring Penn Cage. 

Just to add a little more excitement, Natchez Burning, is on its way to becoming a cable series with Sony and Amazon studies. Read more about this series here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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