Before last year I had never read anything by Greg Iles. But with a 5-hour flight ahead of me, I grabbed the big, thick advance reading copy of Natchez Burning and decided to dive in. In hindsight, that may have been the smoothest flight I’ve ever taken and I found myself almost (almost!) wishing it could be extended so I could keep reading. I know some people are intimidated by books that are 700 pages or more but trust me, if I can find myself wishing to be squeezed into an airline seat for a few hours longer, you know the read delivers!
Those of you who have read Natchez know it ends with a bang and also with unresolved issues. The Bone Tree (the sequel that I just finished this weekend) picks up immediately where its predecessor leaves us. Iles wastes no time thrusting us back into the world and upping the stakes. Our hero, Penn Cage’s father, is still on the loose and wanted for murder and Penn’s fiancée is now chasing down the truth… Not only about the decades-old racially driven murders that plagued Natchez, but also uncovering a connection with the JFK assassination—a connection the FBI is also seeking. Yep, The Bone Tree is another lengthy read that delivers. The thrills, intrigue and action are just as good (if not better) than Natchez because in this book the villains have been revealed.
That’s what makes a great sequel, isn’t it? Knowing the characters and what they’re capable of—good and bad—helps us to feel more for them. Where Iles’ mastery comes from is that his characters live and breathe. Even the most villainous are not caricatures; even our heroes are not boy scouts. The revelations Iles carefully lays out in The Bone Tree will change how you look at protagonists in novels. Only a day after finishing it and I certainly don’t know how to feel about Penn Cage. But I do know I want a third book!
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