The Bone Tree

The second volume in a trilogy about unsolved civil-rights murders in the South, The Bone Tree follows Natchez Burning and precedes Unwritten Laws, which is due out this year. It’s centered around Penn Cage, a former prosecutor who is now mayor of Natchez, Miss. Members of his family figure prominently, especially his father, Dr. Tom Cage. Charged with murdering his former nurse, a black woman named Viola Turner, the doctor is now a fugitive from justice. Penn’s effort to save his father leads to the Double Eagles, a group of former Ku Klux Klanners who, in the 1960s, had gotten away with murdering black men in horrible ways, and who today will do anything—including murder—to avoid being brought to justice. Based loosely but recognizably on actual events and people, this prime example of Southern noir is, as one reviewer put it, “Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County for the Breaking Bad generation.” Best to read Natchez Burning first, however; both books are available at the Butte County Library in Chico.