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by Greg Iles
William Morrow, March 2019
587 pages
ISBN: 0062824619

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

McEwan must find his friend's killer and what indigenous artifacts he discovered on the banks of the Mississippi before the bulldozers move in to destroy the site and erect a billion dollar paper mill, bringing lots of jobs to Bienville.

At 587 pages, CEMETERY ROAD could be a daunting task for a reviewer of crime fiction. Maybe Greg Iles is a genius at spinning out his tales. This is Iles' seventeenth novel, best sellers all, so have faith. This is going to be a long but compelling journey.

Marshall McEwan returns to his hometown, Bienville, Mississippi, to help his ailing father run the town's daily newspaper. He left home after high school and has been an extremely successful journalist in DC but the Trump media madness has encouraged this Pulitzer Prize winner to leave the capital.

As the novel opens, McEwan learns that his old scoutmaster, an amateur archeologist, Buck Ferris has been dragged out of the Mississippi, head bashed in and clearly dead. From this moment we are on the ride of our lives. Marshall is pretty sure Buck has been murdered, probably by one of the members of The Poker Club, the men who run Bienville.

The banks of the Mississippi hold many artifacts from early indigenous cultures and Buck was sure he had found a site that was extremely important and could bring much attention to this small town. It could even become a tourist Mecca. But The Poker Club has other ideas. They have arranged with the Chinese to build a billion-dollar paper mill on the banks of the river. A fast buck for the Poker Club and lots of jobs for the failing town trump Indian artifacts and tourists for these connivers.

Meanwhile, who appears but Marshall's childhood sweetheart, Jet Turner (a little too beautiful and smart for belief), now married to the son of the Poker Club's strongman. They fall into each other's arms and the sex is sizzling hot in their secret rendezvous. Jet is also a high power civil rights lawyer and she and Marshall begin to unravel the complicated plot that has led to Buck's death.

Iles is the master of plot complications. He knows how to keep it coming while keeping all the ramifications clear to the reader. For example, Marshall's dad is dying, drinking himself to death; Bienville's newspaper The Watchman is hanging on by a thread, Nadine who runs a coffee shop in town is broken in to, at work and at home, Max Matheson, the thuggish head of the Poker Club, threatens both Marshall and his daughter-in-law Jet. And the hot sex keeps getting hotter.

Of course, this being the South, secrets of the past are tantalizingly hinted at lost children, undetermined paternity, power-broking, racism, and most of all money have tentacles reaching from Bienville's fraught past into the lives of its residents.

The River, the mighty Mississippi, haunts CEMETERY ROAD. The reader swims it with Marshall, dredges it for bodies, and digs in its banks for artifacts. Iles lives on the river himself and is a master of conveying its many moods to us. And given the layout of Bienville, you can't get anywhere without finding yourself on Cemetery Road.

Iles ends this tome with a twist, so that even the final pages are not a summing up but a blast in the face. Good work on #17, Mr. Iles.

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, March 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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