This is the second book in a planned trilogy set in a part of the South still rooted in deep racial division. It begins about the time of the Katrina hurricane and flooding of New Orleans. The first of the three novels, “Natchez Burning,” set the stage for the conflicts carried on in this book, with Penn Cage, the mayor of Natchez.
Penn, an attorney, is forced to defend his father Tom Cage on a murder charge in the slaying of Tom’s one time mistress and nurse in his father’s medical office. The nurse had moved out the area years ago after being raped by members of the Double Eagles, a terror group allied with the Ku Klux Klan. She lived in Chicago for many years and only came back when she was diagnosed with cancer so she could die where she grew up. The Double Eagle members and corrupt police accuse Tom of a mercy killing in order to ease her suffering.
Iles, although writing fiction, describes in detail the corruption existing in the area of the south under discussion. He indicates that Katrina forced many African Americans out of New Orleans when their homes were destroyed and powerful white groups plotted to rebuild the city in a different way. The plan only included more expensive homes and apartments in order to prevent the poorer Negros from returning. In addition white gangsters took the opportunity to assassinate their black rivals and take over their territory.
Touched on in the first book and brought out with more detail in this novel is the idea that the killings of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther king originated with the New Orleans mafia. Iles brings to bear a good deal of research into the John F. Kennedy murder. His knowledge of the ballistics, placement of individuals involved and planning describe a different scenario other than Lee Harvey Oswald as the sole assassin and sets up more of a conspiracy than originally thought.
Penn’s fiancee, Caitlin Masters, editor of a newspaper in Natchez owned by a group controlled by her father has her own part to play in bringing out facts and situations involved in the action. She meets and befriends the wife of an FBI agent investigating the John F. Kennedy killing’s New Orleans roots. Her friend is a world class news photographer and helps Caitlin with the development of the investigation.
The ending obviously sets up the third book coming in the trilogy. Iles writing is nothing short of mesmerizing and the over 800 pages flies by keeping the reader glued to the pages.
4/15 Paul Lane
THE BONE TREE by Greg Iles. William Morrow (April 21, 2015). ISBN 978-0062311115. 816p.