The Bone Tree Is Part Two of a Sweeping Southern Saga

04/22/2015 08:01 pm ET | Updated Jun 22, 2015

Book Review - Jackie K Cooper
The Bone Tree by Greg Iles

When an author announces he is writing a trilogy of books just so it can contain his full story, one's first thought is it had better be a good tale to stretch over that length. Ken Follett pulled it off with his last set of novels, and Greg Iles got off to a good start with his novel Natchez Burning. Now he has come forth with the second novel, The Bone Tree, and it matches, or even outdoes, the first story in excitement and drama.

In many instances the middle book of a trilogy is basically full of filler. The first book is the set up; the second is the filler; the third is the highly anticipated conclusion. The Bone Tree does not follow the filler path. It is full of advances in the plot and development of the characters.

The central character is Penn Cage, lawyer, author and mayor of Natchez Mississippi. He is a widower with an eleven year old daughter. He is now engaged to Caitlin Masters, the editor of "The Examiner," Natchez' most influential newspaper. Both Penn and Caitlin are in danger of being hurt or even killed by a secret group known as the Double Eagles. They don't like the investigating these two are doing into past murders in the area.

Plus Penn's father, Dr. Tom Cage, is on the run from the State Police because he is accused of murdering his nurse as well as a state trooper. Penn is desperate to find his father and to protect him but Tom has decided to handle things on his own and doesn't even let Penn know where he is.

Usually author's write the books of a trilogy to be stand alones. They are better if you have read the previous book(s) but you can usually glean enough from the new material to catch you up on the evolving story. That is not the case here .I think it would be impossible to understand the events in The Bone Tree if you have not read Natchez Burning.

Greg Iles has long been one of my favorite writers and he is certainly at his best with this series. The Bone Tree is very lengthy but each page is raging with fever and fervor. These are some of the best characters he has ever created and his plot is southern drama at its most traumatic. Race relations, adultery, murder, parenthood and friendship are all smashed together to form a searing saga of remorse and revenge.

When The Bone Tree ends you immediately wonder when the third book will be published. It will be a while so just savor the sweetness of a good story brilliantly told. The Bone Tree is better than Natchez Burning. If the third book surpasses the first two then Iles will be elevated to the highest heights of famed storytellers.

The Bone Tree is published by William Morrow. It contains 804 pages and sells for $27.99.

Jackie K Cooper