Books | June 2016
Greg Iles is known for his ability to masterfully craft suspense novels that are nearly impossible to put down. Even before his remarkable first volume of the Natchez Burning trilogy was released early last year, he already had a legion of dedicated fans for his earlier works, including The Quiet Game and Devil’s Punchbowl. Many say that the author’s ability to create dimensional and authentic characters is what sets his novels apart and makes them so engrossing and special.
Sharing the name of the series itself, the first book entitled Natchez Burning spans forty years in its over 850 pages. Exploring issues of race, crime, and social pressure, Natchez Burning is intense and its readers will begin to experience that fiery intensity within its first pages. This novel reintroduces readers to the captivating Penn Cage, a former prosecutor and writer who calls Natchez home and was first debuted in the author’s earlier novel, The Quiet Game. Penn’s father is a beloved local doctor who Penn lovingly compares to Atticus Finch because of his ability to stand up for what he believed to be right, even when it was not easy.
It is not long before Penn’s father, Tom, is charged with an unthinkable crime against someone close to him, and Penn soon finds himself on a difficult quest for the truth even though it takes him on a dark and dangerous path. Riddled with lies and deception, murder accusations, and dangerous encounters with the evil that men do, Natchez Burning is the ultimate satisfying Southern tale of the frightening history that at times seems impossible to fully escape from. Iles effectively captures the terrifying essence of decades-old intolerance in Natchez Burning.
But, this story could not end there. The second book in the trilogy, The Bone Tree, has recently been released and picks up with the dynamic Penn Cage still grappling with his near-death experience with the Double Eagles, a terrifyingly aggressive and dangerous sect of the KKK. Special Agent John Kaiser sheds light on the grim situation when he gives Penn some information on the power and leadership of the organization.
This novel finds Tom on the run and Penn’s fiancé, Caitlin, digging deeper into the murky and frightening past. On her quest for knowledge and truth, Caitlin is the one who discovers “the bone tree” itself, a secret swampy burial ground used by the group for over two decades.
This series meshes the brutal reality of historical fact with intriguing fiction in the most harmonious of ways. It has been called epic, extraordinary, and riveting. But the story actually goes beyond even these high praises. It is illuminating and thought-provoking, begging us to ponder both the past and the future. This series asks readers to consider the impact of history on the present while also entertaining them ceaselessly. Masterful and powerful, these books should not be missed this summer.
The third book in the trilogy, Mississippi Blood, will be released in 2017 and promises to be as exciting and beautifully spun as the first two novels. Iles, himself, has led a life deeply rooted in Mississippi where he spent his youth before graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1983. Interestingly, while he was attending Ole Miss, the author lived in the cabin where the South’s beloved William Faulkner and his brothers famously listened to their nanny’s tales. He penned his first novel in 1993. The book, Spandau Phoenix, quickly became the first of 12 bestsellers.
Bestselling author Greg Iles weaves a rollercoaster tale of action and suspense in
The Bone Tree, the recently released second novel in the Natchez Burning trilogy
Review by Shana Raley-Lusk