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Views and opinions: Thick novel is good story, but not simple to get into

Cemetery Road by Greg Iles

c.2019, Wm. Morrow

$28.99/$35.99 Canada

590 pages

You can never leave well enough alone. There you are, always digging, recreating, imagining, tweaking here or there. There’s no answer unattainable, no solution beyond your grip.

Good or bad, a “need-to-know” basis is your default position but, as in the new book Cemetery Road by Greg Iles, it could get you killed.

Marshall McEwan planned to never visit Bienville, Miss., again. Leaving there had been his salvation years ago, and the key to his success. No, Bienville was a bad memory in Marshall’s rear-view mirror, and he’d planned to keep it that way.

And then his father fell ill.

Duncan McEwan, owner-publisher of Bienville’s only newspaper, was once a strong voice against injustice and racism, but alcoholism and liver failure were taking a toll on him now, as they had on his relationship with his son in the past. It was only by request from his mother that Marshall went home again.

And there was Jet Matheson. They’d been childhood sweethearts once, and Marshall never stopped loving Jet, even though they’d gone their separate ways.

Now in Bienville, he was divorced but she was not; years ago, Marshall turned Jet away, so she’d married Paul, Marshall’s old friend and the man who’d saved Marshall’s life. If Paul somehow learned that Marshall was sleeping with his wife now, Paul would kill him – if the “Poker Club” didn’t get there first.

Since the Civil War, that’s how Bienville’s wealthiest, most powerful men controlled the city, politically, financially, and socially. Now they were controlling extensive plans for construction of a Chinese paper factory that meant jobs for area residents, although plans went far beyond that.

Yes, lives would be destroyed, property damaged, historic lands plundered, but billion-dollar contracts would line the already-cushioned pockets of wealthy men. It would happen, as long as the Poker Club – led by Jet Matheson’s father-in-law – could keep Marshall McEwen from learning secrets.

And they’d do that any way they could.

The best place to start with an almost-600-page book is at the beginning: Cemetery Road is very good, but not very easy to read. For sure, it’s one of the most realistic novels you’ll consume this spring, but emulating real life means real-life complications: a lot of people to keep track of, a lot of side issues to remember, and personal histories to learn.

It’s like moving to a small town and being expected to intimately know everybody, on-the-spot. And yet, again like real life, intricacies make things interesting.

Here, you get your ubiquitous web of lies and intrigue; some truly awful, greedy characters, each with a personal agenda; and a Betty-Veronica-Archie-type love triangle that comfortably amuses as it blows up within the tale. Yes, author Greg Iles throws a lot at his readers, but he also gives them life rafts so they don’t drift too far off-course.

Ultimately, this is an excellent novel if you’ve fallen in love with thrillers but, like many relationships these days, it’s complicated. Give yourself some time, let yourself be absorbed, and you’ll like Cemetery Road well enough.


Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a prairie in Wisconsin with two dogs, a handsome redhead and 16,000 books.