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The sequel to The Bone Tree, I could not simply avoid this book even if you paid me handsomely to do so. Though I have yet to read the first of the trilogy, Natchez Burning, I can’t help but still forging ahead to read Blood. Yes, I know I am violating some weird reader code of sorts but that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls. And to Mr. Iles credit, he wrote Bone Tree so well that it could have easily been a standalone. But, I will still be heading back to read Natchez Burning after all is said and done. And yes, even when I know the “spoilers”. But enough of the bollocks and on to the bleedy review.

The Bone Tree left us with a Penn Cage trying to pick the pieces of his life after killing Frank Knox (the head of a notorious Ku Klux Klan fringe group known as the Double Eagles) and the death of his fiancée that was killed in her quest to find the Bone Tree. And then along comes Lincoln Turner, Penn’s half-brother and product of an affair between Tom Cage(Penn’s father) and Violet Turner (an Afro-American nurse) and the shit hits the fan. Tom Cage is accused, by Lincoln, of causing the death of Violet Turner (Lincoln’s mother) and is arrested. Meanwhile, Snake Knox is still running around free and is back in the United States and he’s got revenge on his mind. To be precise: he has a bloodbath in mind for Penn Cage and his family. Teaming up with a white supremacist biker gang, along with his firearms-proficient, psychopath of a son (Alois Engels), Snake is determined to bathe the shores of Mississippi in a nice shade of red. And this they do with the grace and mercy of a pit filled with agitated water moccasins. Though Penn is not exactly a sitting duck, surrounded by private contractor bodyguards who are mostly former SEALs and Special Forces, he finds himself under the charms of a Serenity Butler, a journalist and former military officer that is quite the firecracker. And yes a lot of steamy stuff happen between Serenity and Penn … and they even sleep together too. Interestingly enough, as much the book could have been about the Snake and his ilk committing all sorts of vileness in the land, the real star of this book is the trial of Tom Cage. Now some you will read this and go, bloody hell I’m not going to read about some bloody courtroom drama … and you’ll be terribly wrong about this. This is a trial like you’ve never read one before. The showdown between Quentin Avery, the wheelchair bound defender of Tom Cage, and Shadrach “Shad” Johnson the prosecutor is the equivalent of watching a July the 4th celebration … using nuclear missiles that explode in midair. The trial if it were an action movie would be likened to a Jason Bourne movie filled with twists, turns and intrigue around every nook and cranny that you soon begin to dread things like sleep, bodily functions, and going to work. The trial (in my humble opinion) is Iles’ masterpiece, and there is a good chance that many of you will not guess the outcome of the trial. Of course, some of you would be cheeky bastards and skip ahead and read the bleedy outcome. Tsk, tsk … not very sporting mates, though I will admit that I was tempted to do the same, but you know what they say about patience being a good virtue and all that other bollocks.
After having read The Bone Tree, I must have been panting like a Pavlovian dog in anticipation of this sequel, and I when I finally got it, it was worth the wait. Blood is the South like you’ve never read it and sad reflection of the way race relations are today in America. Fiction hits home. The action inside and outside the courtroom is thick and stifling as monsoon humidity in a Louisiana bayou and strikes as viciously and relentlessly as a trod-upon copperhead. Forget grabbing you by the throat, Blood grabs you by the minerals and it is that good kind of pain (hope I don’t sound too fifty shady here … but there I said it) that you endure … willingly … all the way to the last page. Jolly good show, Mr. Iles.

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Ah yes, another one of those books that “whispered” to me. A cry for help, or perhaps the need to get out more? Oui? Non? Time will tell. This is my first book by Greg Iles and an 800-plus page to boot at that. Yes, quite the risk of my time … which turned out quite well (thank goodness … I’d hate to add this bloke to the list authors that owe me the life of their firstborn for my time wasted on their books). Well, enough of the bollocks, and let’s start with the bleedy book review. Shall we?

It starts with the murder of an Afro-American nurse, named Viola, in Louisiana. A murder that turns Dr. Tom cage into a fugitive and creates a rift with his son, Penn. Penn Cage, on the other hand, has a pile of steaming bollocks to deal with: he has started a war with a KKK fringe group called the Double Eagles. Penn’s fiancée, Caitlin Masters (yeah, I know thanks to a certain reality star that name creates a lot of neural twitching) is a journalist (that is probably part bloodhound) is on the scent of one of the biggest stories, of her career where Tom Cage is key to it all. In the center of it all, is the Bone Tree (hence the title of the book), a legendary killing site, somewhere amidst the tons of roving marshes and bayous, that was used to by the Double Eagles to conceal more than the remains of the forgotten. And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse we get to encounter the Knox clan. An A-class racist, misogynistic, psychopathic clan that literally has this stuff interwoven into their DNA and has ties to (no surprise here) the Double Eagles. The murderous ringmaster that leads this mayhem is a crafty, vicious little bugger named Forrest Knox, that is beguiling and calculating as serpent, and exceedingly vicious with probably just as equal a venomous bite to match. He also owns a “hunting lodge” that has been known to provide its members with occasional carnal delights from the local trough and the opportunity to hunt a bit more (allegedly) than exotic animals (hint: the ones that walk on two legs). And somewhere in there, is a connection to the JFK assassination, which dominates the book and Iles does a fascinating job on this that debunks the grassy knoll bollocks and offers another interesting possibility. And yes this is a linked with the Double Eagles.
Bone Tree waste little effort in grabbing readers by the throat and keep them riveted. The book reads like one big Machiavellian chess board, except some of the pieces aren’t really what they may seem and there is a lot of blood. Blood that flows hot and thick like humidity in Louisiana during hurricane season. Vendettas, revenge and murder are exacted with the stealthy and calculating viciousness of pissed off, silent, slithering water moccasin (on steroids). And this is not even half-way through the book. It is the South like you’ve never seen or read it. None of that hat-tipping, curtsying, mint dew lip drinking bollocks. Oh no, no, NO. And if you’re expecting happy endings … well … it is all merely perspective. Huh, you ask? Aye. There are little conflicts both internal and external. There are different quests: the quest for truth, the quest for revenge, the quest for power. And all paths converge on the enigmatic Bone Tree.
Iles uses a hybrid format, which apparently, is becoming rather common in most novels: first person narratives (Penn Cage) combined with third person narratives (everyone else). And at first it may throw folks off … for about a few chapters … but it is only matter of time before you find yourself wrapped up in the story and binge-reading your way through bodily functions, feeding times and possibly sensible sleeping hours. Caution to most readers: don’t become attached to characters. Trust me. You will love me for this. Or not.The good news is that this is part of a … (wait for it) … TRILOGY. The really good news is that this is the second book, and now I’ve got to go read the first book (bloody hell, what’s a bloke to do … decisions, decisions).

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