Sarah’s Snippets Book Review: The Bone Tree by Greg Iles (Penn Cage)

When I first started Sarah’s Book Shelves, one of my goals was to write concise book reviews (my first reviews were essentially minis…just 4-5 sentences) and I got away from that as time went by. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how my “traditional” book reviews aren’t as popular as other types of posts and I’ve heard similar things from other bloggers. So, I thought it was time to try a different type of “review,” one that, while not 4-5 sentences, comes closer to my original intent. Obviously, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments!

Fiction – SouthernThe Bone Tree, Greg Iles
Released April 21, 2015
816 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: eGalley provided by the publisher via Edelweiss


The Bone Tree didn’t quite live up to the first book in the series (Natchez Burning, one of my Best Books of 2014), but was a solid sequel nonetheless.

Plot Summary

Picking up right where Natchez Burning left off, former prosecutor and current Mayor of Natchez Penn Cage and his newspaper publisher fiancee (Caitlin Masters) continue their pursuit of Dr. Tom Cage (Penn’s fugitive father) and the KKK offshoot Double Eagles group, now with the knowledge that its leader isn’t who they thought it was.

Major Themes

1960’s Civil Rights Era, Ku Klux Klan and offshoot groups, retribution, race, post-Katrina New Orleans, the Mafia, corruption

What I Liked

  • Sequels make me squeamish. It’s hard to strike just the right balance between including enough of what attracted the reader to the original book in the first place and taking the sequel in a fresh direction. While Iles probably went a bit overboard on the “what was attractive about Natchez Burning” end, he definitely took the story to another level.
  • So much happened in Natchez Burning that I wondered where The Bone Tree (and an upcoming third book in the series) could possibly go. But, the focal points of all the big action in Natchez Burning are really just smaller pieces in a much larger puzzle.
  • I’m a sucker for conspiracy theories, even if proposed fictionally. It’s fun to think apply these “what if” scenarios to real life and Iles lays out a great one in The Bone Tree

What I Didn’t Like

  • While Natchez Burning‘s 800 pages flew by, I really felt The Bone Tree‘s length. At times, Iles seemed to rehash the same points over and over.
  • The wow factor stemming from Natchez Burning‘s originality was missing for me here. Probably because I’d seen it before (duh!).

A Defining Quote

You know, the truth isn’t hard to find, if you’re willing to get your hands dirty. Truth waits just under the surface for any man brave enough to scrape a little dirt away. But most people are too afraid or too lazy to get dirty. They’re afraid to ask the right questions. The hard questions.

Fascinating Fact

The conspiracy theory that plays a large role in The Bone Tree is similar to a real-life one put forth in a 2013 nonfiction book.

Special Note

While the Prologue provides a comprehensive overview of the main takeaways from Natchez Burning (thank God, since my book memory is horrible!), you should probably read that book before tackling The Bone Tree.

Good for People Who Like…

Southern fiction, page turners, thrillers, conspiracy theories, Civil Rights history, reading about the Mafia, fictional story lines with real historical figures

Other Books You May Like

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

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  1. Kay wrote:

    Glad to hear your reactions to The Bone Tree. And I like this format. So, I’m surmising that since Iles went into this tale knowing it would be a big, giant story to be divided into 3 books, this middle part would almost inevitably have some problems or potential problems. The middle always seems to be less satisfying. Like The Empire Strikes Back (for those who know Star Wars). The quote is great – to me, Penn Cage has never hesitated to get his hands dirty in his quest for whatever truth he is searching for. And he also doesn’t shy away from the hard questions.

    Posted 4.22.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Thank you! And – I like your thought process with the trilogy. Hoping the 3rd is just as good as the first! I’m glad I read this one, but do think it could have been shorter 🙂

      Posted 4.22.15 Reply
  2. Kerry M wrote:

    I haven’t read Natchez Burning (though I’ve heard SO many good things!), but you have me intrigued with “Southern fiction, Civil Rights history, fictional story lines with real historical figures,” etc.

    Love the review format, by the way!

    Posted 4.22.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Thanks! I thought Natchez was such a unique book. I learned a ton about things that went on in the 60’s in the deep south..esp since the central civil rights murders in Natchez Burning were based on real murder cases.

      Posted 4.22.15 Reply
  3. I like it Sarah!! And, since you’ve mentioned that you “felt the length” on this one…it’s going to be a “no” for me. Thanks for sharing your experience and keep up the great work!

    Posted 4.22.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Thanks! If you loved Natchez, I’d say to read it, but if you were so-so about Natchez, then probably move on…

      Posted 4.22.15 Reply
  4. Darlene @ Lost in Literature wrote:

    I love this format. I am likely to read something like this rather than just scan it.

    I have found on my own blog that I have a hard time writing a proper review. I have way more fun with it when I just talk about the book like I’m talking to a friend. I also like to just add personal anecdotes like what was going on in my life at the time or how characters or circumstances apply to me.

    Posted 4.22.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Scanning is pretty much why I went to this format! I realized I scan most every book review I read…so I assumed that most people scanned mine. I figured why not write one that was meant to be scanned?

      And, I agree, it’s much more fun to talk about books as if you’re talking to a friend!

      Posted 4.22.15 Reply
  5. Anita wrote:

    I love this format, it’s got plenty of thought and meat to it, it’s diverse and different.
    I’ve just started The Bone Tree, and Iike how it jumps right into the story, refreshing my own mind of the end of Natchez Burning. I feel a bit overwhelmed again with 800 pages, but that is just me, I’m not a lover of the big thick book. I’d rather have a book @ 350 pages..

    Posted 4.23.15 Reply

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