Cemetery Road

Cemetery Road

by Greg Iles

Overview: When Marshall McEwan left his hometown at age eighteen, he vowed never to return. The trauma that drove him away ultimately spurred him to become one of the most successful journalists in Washington D.C. But just as the political chaos in the nation’s capital lifts him to new heights, Marshall is forced to return home in spite of his boyhood vow.

His father is dying, his mother is struggling to keep the family newspaper from failing, and the town is in the midst of an economic rebirth that might be built upon crimes that reach into the state capitol—and perhaps even to Washington. More disturbing still, Marshall’s high school sweetheart, Jet, has married into the family of Max Matheson, patriarch of one of the families that rule Bienville through a shadow organization called the Bienville Poker Club.

When archeologist Buck McKibben is murdered at a construction site, Bienville is thrown into chaos. The ensuing homicide investigation is soon derailed by a second crime that rocks the community to its core. Power broker Max Matheson’s wife has been shot dead in her own bed, and the only other person in it at the time was her husband, Max. Stranger still, Max demands that his daughter-on-law, Jet, defend him in court.

As a journalist, Marshall knows all too well how the corrosive power of money and politics can sabotage investigations. Without telling a soul, he joins forces with Jet, who has lived for fifteen years at the heart of Max Matheson’s family, and begins digging into both murders. With Jet walking the dangerous road of an inside informer, they soon uncover a web of criminal schemes that undergird the town’s recent success. But these crimes pale in comparison to the secret at the heart of the Matheson family. When those who have remained silent for years dare to speak to Marshall, pressure begins to build like water against a crumbling dam.

Marshall loses friends, family members, and finally even Jet, for no one in Bienville seems willing to endure the reckoning that the Poker Club has long deserved. And by the time Marshall grasps the long-buried truth, he would give almost anything not to have to face it.

Deanna Boe (05/29/19): I do like the analogy for the title of his book. Iles compares “life” as simply the road we travel to the cemetery from birth to death. Obviously there is such a road in this novel called “Cemetery Road” which does go to or by the cemetery. Iles has one of the characters talking philosophically about this road we all travel in life. I would never have thought of our lives that way.

Now, what to say about this book? Greg Iles is a famous and a well respected author. I have a feeling his halo among his readers might have slipped a little on this one. In reading other reviews of this book I was amazed how many would never read another one of his books because he spoke negatively about Trump. I guess I simply took it that one of his characters simply didn’t like Trump, similar to at least 50% (or more) of the citizens today. If you are writing a book about this time frame, how can you not have one of your characters feel this way? In short, I believe there are also other flaws in Iles writing and storyline to consider for this novel.

First, the book rambles. It has 587 pages, and I honestly believe the story could just as easily been written in 400? There is lots of redundancy. Next, the book had several themes going at the same time: i.e. greed, low morals, and hypocrisy to name just a few. I am far from a prude but the graphic description in terms of what just turned the main female character sexually “on” really wasn’t necessary. She was portrayed in such a way that all men wished they could have a piece of her action, especially when her father-in-law told her husband and her lover just how she liked it, to prove he had also had sex with her. The killing was done very casually, but why not? Everything seemed to be happening that way. The project being discussed was how it would help this community in Mississippi grow so it would not disappear like many other communities in the state. Actually, it was really how the “center” group, better known as the “Bienville Poker Club” (started after the Civil War,) could continue to enrich their own lives and keep control of the town. This group of twelve men really had their own interests at the heart of the matter, and if it happened to help the community, so-be-it. He also had one chapter in the book that had two of the main characters fighting in the war in Iraq as private citizens. They were working with private and government personnel. Do all male writers enjoy writing about war? It was quite graphic and naturally one of the characters comes out a hero even though he had to kill several of the local citizens to accomplish it. Oh well, what are a few innocent people dead here and there?

Once more, you will have to form your own opinion on this book. If you really like Iles’ writing, you will love it. If you happen to like Trump, you might not, since Iles does seem to bash him. If you like a storyline that doesn’t seem to go on and on, well, not so much. In short, it is yours to figure out on this one.
Rating: ***

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