The Bone Tree: Book summary and reviews of The Bone Tree by Greg Iles

The Bone Tree

A Penn Cage Novel, Natchez Burning Trilogy #2

by Greg Iles

The Bone Tree by Greg Iles X
The Bone Tree by Greg Iles
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Book Summary

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles comes the second novel in his Natchez Burning trilogy—which also includes Natchez Burning and the upcoming Mississippi Blood—an epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice, featuring Southern lawyer Penn Cage.

Former prosecutor Penn Cage and his fiancée, 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?

This listing refers to the trade paperback edition. Hardcover, e-book and mass market paperback versions published previously.

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Bone Tree:

Agent Kaiser says, "I believe the Bureau has a moral duty to the people of this parish – the black people, mainly, to close the cases we failed to solve back in the 1960s." Do you agree? What impediments stand in his way?
I agree that Agent Kaiser is right in believing that there is a moral duty to investigate the crimes that were covered up in the 1960s. There can be not reconciliation in a community where these old wounds fester. Until the victims of the past are ... - nanl

Are the residents of Natchez, Mississippi, still living in the past?
As the past determines the path of our future, don't we all live in and with our past? The characters in Natchez lived in an area of pivotal violence, secrets and social change with the world watching. Each character in the book embodies a value of ... - barb23703

Discuss the individual journeys and moral choices of Penn and Tom Cage
Each man's moral choices is dictated by the era in which they live. That there can be such vivid contrasts between the expectations placed upon law enforcement in two separate eras is pretty jarring. This is especially clear as Penn learns more about... - donnac

How do FBI Special Agent John Kaiser's goals differ from Penn's and Tom's?
I agree with all of the above. Keiser definitely was more interested in solving a case of national significance rather than blame or absolve one individual. - juliep

How do Iles's novels compare with Robert Penn Warren's All The King's Men?
Very reminiscent and not a bad thing. - dianaps

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Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Absolutely compelling… A beautifully constructed story, some extremely fine writing, and some hard-to-bear tragedy.… Everything is big about this one." - Booklist

"Starred Review. Best-selling author Iles superbly blends past and present in his swift and riveting story line." - Library Journal

"Richly plotted…[and] the action-packed narrative moves swiftly to a surprising and moving conclusion." - Publishers Weekly

"The second installment of his hard-boiled Natchez trilogy finds Iles' hero Penn Cage on even swampier, and surely deadlier, ground than before." - Kirkus Reviews

"Better than Natchez Burning. If the third book surpasses the first two then Iles will be elevated to the highest heights of famed storytellers." - Huffington Post

"Establishes Iles as this generation's William Faulkner, usurping Pat Conroy as our preeminent Southern writer and potentially establishing him as this era's finest American novelist, thanks to this moving and meaningful masterpiece of storytelling." - Providence Journal

"Filled with menace, betrayal, [and] unexpected plot twists... Running through this vast enterprise is the implicit belief that crime fiction is capable of addressing - and illuminating - any aspect of human behavior, including the tragic history of race relations in 20th-century America." - Washington Post

This information about The Bone Tree was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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The Dastardly Characters Are Believable
I enjoyed the continuation of the lives of characters I met in a previous Greg Iles book (Natchez Burning), although in this book (for some reason) I sometimes had to stop at the start of a new chapter and figure out which character was the focus. The evil nature of some of the characters is shocking but not unbelievable - given the front page news in modern life. The detail about the Kennedy half-dollar coins (I won't say more to avoid a 'spoiler alert') is vivid one that made me wonder if the author knew someone who had actually done that. And as with the previous book I read, the attitude of the modern KKK members rings true and continues to be disturbing. There are many characters and details in this 804 page book. I enjoyed the journalistic details of Caitlin's life and the shocking revelation of a certain adult's illegitimate son. Despite all the bigotry and laws against inter-racial marriages in our country's earlier days, it's no secret that there were plenty of affairs and rapes leading to children of mixed heritage. So I think that detail was very realistic.
Throughout the book I tried to read very carefully when I found myself thinking, " did this situation deteriorate into this?" Maybe I was reading too early in the morning without enough coffee, but I still am not totally clear on why the situation spiraled out-of-control for the father/doctor Tom Cage.
I liked the interview in chapter 38 and felt as if the author had access to bona fide materials related to Oswald and JFK's death. I enjoyed reading this book. I rated it a 4 instead of a 5 only because at times I thought the extensive dialogue or description could be condensed.


Hanging ending, too long
The author put too much in this book. It was extremely long. Besides the main plot/story he spent much too much rime on a Kennedy assassination plot. That could have been a separate book. I appreciated the accurate ways in which he captures Mississippi’s and Louisiana’s history of racism and corruption. What I did not like it that he kept the audience hanging at the end regarding a major issue. As far as I know there is no room in a later book for this issue to be addressed. There were several loose ends at the end of the book. had it not been for these issues I would have rated the book as a 5.

Allan Bevevino

Too long
I found the book excruciatingly long with the characters interacting with their own set of secrets. Midway through the book I thought the withholding of information between parties would end and that once there was a combined revelation, justice would be served. I was wrong. The tantalizing aspect of the JFK assassination and the real story surrounding it left me hanging.


This book had great potential but was too long and too many impossible events to keep one's mind on the important parts of the story.

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Author Information

Greg Iles Author Biography

Ben Hillyer

Greg Iles was born in Germany in 1960, where his father ran the US Embassy Medical Clinic during the height of the Cold War. Iles spent his youth in Natchez, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1983. While attending Ole Miss, Greg lived in the cabin where William Faulkner and his brothers listened to countless stories told by "Mammy Callie," their beloved nanny, who had been born a slave.

Iles wrote his first novel in 1993, a thriller about Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess, which became the first of twelve New York Times bestsellers. His novels have been made into films, translated into more than twenty languages, and published in more than thirty-five countries worldwide.

Iles is a member of the legendary lit-rock group "The Rock Bottom Remainders." Like ...

... Full Biography
Link to Greg Iles's Website

Name Pronunciation
Greg Iles: EYE-less

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