It’s almost a waste of time trying to describe this book. But I’ll waste – hopefully – a little of your time, then you can go out and get stuck into it and/or, if you haven’t read Natchez Burning already, read that. Then this. The best book I’ll read all year, by a Mississippi mile.
It is, as they say, a stunning achievement. Mainly for being 800 utterly gripping pages long, that held me spellbound from start to finish. I shit you not; my face was set to stun, my jaw on the floor the whole time. Not just with shocks, twists and ‘…the FUCK?!!” the whole time, but at the truly awesome scale of the achievement Greg Iles is in the middle of with this series. How on earth he’s done/doing it, I don’t know. He’ll need to take a few years off writing after this, no doubt. His brain must be full. And saying that, if you’re a writer writing in the same genre as Mr Iles; give up, stop now and find another job. You’ll never, ever (ever) do better than the Natchez series (I’m not actually sure if it has a title).
What’s it about? So much. You do need to have read book one, Natchez Burning, that is essential. The background knowlege from that, will allow this to hit you like a runaway truck. I can’t sum it up. The action is compressed, like a pressure-cooker of emotions and shocks, into just a few hours. The Bone Tree, overlaps slightly, by and hour or two, with the end of Natchez Burning, there is a quite lengthy ‘explaination’ built in, to get you familiar with the events, but you’re going to wish you had read it and kick yourself if you haven’t.
The Natchez town doctor, Tom Cage, stands accused of killing his ex-nurse, a black lady, his son the mayor, gets involved, his father goes ‘missing,’ investigations begin to reveal all sorts of links – to a vicious off-shoot of the KKK, to the murders and ‘dissappearances’ of black people in the early 1960’s, to the deaths of JFK, MLK and RFK. Read the book, and you’ll know why I’ve written it like that. It is clear that the doctor, Penn Cage’s father holds the key to it all. Why he is hiding the truth, we don’t know. To protect himself, maybe. To protect his former nurse, maybe. To protect the KKK, the mafia or what he knows about them – maybe. Natchez Burning set out the stall, The Bone Tree puts everything in its place on the stall, the next one, possibly called Unwritten Laws will, well, who knows? Maybe that’ll sweep everything off the board – again. It’ll be an almost impossible feat to beat this, but if ayone can, on the evidence so far, it’s Greg Iles. Incredible work, just stunning and at the end, I wanted to ring someone up, anyone, if I knew them or not, and rant about how good this book was. Could not be more impressed if it had fallen off the bookshelf on my head.
For the sheer level of shock and awe on just about every page and at the level of penmanship it shows to maintain that over 800 pages, I can’t see The Bone Tree in my reading experience, ever being beaten. Quite where Greg Iles goes with the story after this monumental work, I don’t know. But, that’s the point. It’ll be a shock and it’ll be awesome. My recommendation? Wait until book three comes out and you can go through the whole lot in one go. You’re going to want to. Me, I gotta wait a year until book three. Aaaaargh!