There is one absolute truism in any of Iles’ books written about the American south and set in the twentieth century: There will be a man or woman that is inherently good and facing a group that is evil personified. Just prior to the present novel he was involved in writing several books centered in the city of Natchez. His principal character became involved with fighting a group calling itself the “Double Eagles”. The story actually painted the villains as being involved with both the assassination of John F. Kennedy as well as running Natchez.
Cemetery Road introduces Marshall McEwan in the role of principal protagonist and a shadow group known as the “Poker Club.” Marshall grew up in the small town of Bienville, Mississippi. He was an athlete, a good student and in love with a girl nicknamed Jet. Jet seemed to reciprocate this love until circumstances drove them apart. Marshall left his birthplace, went to Washington, D.C. and over eighteen years gained a well earned reputation as a great reporter. He found himself in many dangerous areas and it appeared that he would continue. His work won him a Pulitzer prize capping his already great reputation.
His progress was interrupted by his mother calling him to return to Bienville to run the family newspaper. His father who was the editor in chief had suffered a major coronary and Marshall was asked to keep things moving until his father recuperated. The biggest problem for Marshall was that he ran into his old girl friend Jet. She was married to Paul, a boyhood friend of his, but it looked like she and Marshall were still in love with each other. While they planned to leave together when Marshall was free to return to his Journalistic career Jet was hampered by Kevin, her son, and the obvious fact that her husband would never let him leave with his mother.
The circumstances of the novel include the winning of the construction of a big Paper mill by the Chinese government In Bienville and the prospect of more jobs, higher wages and added fortunes for members of the Poker Club. A murder of a man that found ancient bones and works at the proposed site of the paper mill with the prospect of the town losing the site and the Mill galvanizes the actions of both Marshall and the Poker Club in different points of view. Marshall to expose the murder and the club to protect their turf.
Iles is a superb builder of characters for his novels and Cemetery Road is no exception. How will the affair between Marshall and Jet turn out? And, of course will the Poker club succeed in keeping the knowledge of a probable historic site from the U.S. government and the turning of it into a protected national park. Like his previous novels centered on Natchez, this one is possibly the first of more. But it stands alone as a completely mesmerizing read with the questions raised by the ending not spoiling the enjoyment of a great author at his best.
3/19 Paul Lane
CEMETERY ROAD by Greg Iles. William Morrow (March 5, 2019). ISBN 978-0062824615. 608p.