Greg Iles triumphant return to the small town of Natchez continues in the middle installment of a new trilogy, The Bone Tree. Thankfully, Tree doesn’t suffer from middle installment syndrome with characters doing a lot of treading water as we slowly set up things for the final race to the finish line.
Iles spends the first third of the book allowing his characters to reflect on the events of Natchez Burning and slowly moving pieces into place for novel’s final acts. But once the revelations start coming, Iles piles them on fast and furiously, making the novel’s final six hundred or so pages fly by and leaving you curious to see what will happen next.
Mayor Penn Cage continues to juggle multiple crises — from his father being on the run from the police and wanted in connection with the death of state trooper to his fiancee not filing him fully on what she knows about the cases unfolding to his own agenda to try and exonerate his father all while uncovering the truths that have long been buried (both literally and figuratively) surrounding racial relations in his own small town, our country and just how that could tie into bigger conspiracy theories (including the shooting of JFK, RFK and MLK). The longer page count of the novel allows time for some of these events to sink in and to impact Cage (and a multitude of other characters) decisions. Seeing the forces aligned against Cage and the other various forces working with him is fascinating and while we may not necessarily root for the various opponents stacked up against Cage, Iles at least allows us to understand their motivations.
And while it’s not quite as fast paced as the first installment in this trilogy, it’s still every bit as page turning and compelling. Once I hit the mid-way point of the novel, it was next to impossible to put down and I was once again left wanting more when the final page was turned.
At this point, I’m not sure how Iles will wrap things up in the next book, but I know that I’ll eagerly be waiting for it.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.