Featured Review: ‘Cemetery Road’ by Greg Iles

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Cemetery RoadIn his first book since releasing the final chapter of his Natchez Burning trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles (Mississippi Blood, 2017, etc.) takes readers back to a small town in Mississippi for another tale about greed, betrayal, and just how far some people will go to keep their secrets hidden. 

It might have just been some boyhood promise, but when Marshall McEwan swore he’d never return to his hometown of Bienville, Mississippi, he meant it. Leaving the small southern town in his rearview mirror, Marshall went on to become a successful, well-known journalist in Washington D.C., thriving as a reporter while making a name for himself on the national level. That is, after all, what he always wanted. Having grown up the son of a father who is revered by many in the south for his work running The Watchman, a local newspaper known for always getting to the bottom of things, Marshall wanted nothing more than to escape his old man’s shadow and make it as a journalist on his own.

Now, more than 15 years later, mission accomplished—until suddenly, everything changes. 

After learning that his father is no longer able to keep The Watchman afloat, both due to his age and a battle with alcoholism, Marshall returns home to take over the 150-year-old, family-owned paper in order to relieve his mother of the burden. Hoping to jump-start the news cycle, Marshall going looking for stories to report on, finding several, in particular, that stand out.

Buck, a local archeologist and all-around good guy who is well liked by the community, was recently found dead—his body beaten and dumped in the river. While following the murder investigation, Marshall also familiarises himself with other notable stories—the impending arrival of a Chinese-funded paper plant—and the recent announcement of a new bill that’s expected to pass and bring with it a billion dollars to Bienville thanks, in part, to a new interstate connection point that’ll finally put the small town on the map. Things really heat up, though, when Marshall begins investigating the dealings of the Poker Club, a secret group of powerful locals whose illegal dealings often go unreported, though their influence continues to grow. 

Complicating matters is the fact that Jet, Marshall’s former lover who he hasn’t seen in well over a decade but still has deep feelings for, is now married to Paul Matheson, the heir to the Poker Club throne. An attorney, Jet is forced to defend her father-in-law, who stands accused of murdering his wife, against her own wishes. But after she and Marshall reconnect, the two begin secretly working together to figure out what, exactly, is going on. The story takes a dramatic turn when Marshall, following a trail of dead bodies, begins connecting things together, exposing a slew of corrupt individuals in high placesputting a target on his back like never before. 

In an ironic twist, after leaving his hometown to chase big stories on his way to becoming a trusted reporter, Marshall McEwan eventually finds the biggest story of his career back in Mississippi . . . the question is, can he stay alive long enough to report on it?

Greg Iles and Mississippi go together like meat and potatoes. Those worried that the setting will tire after his work with the Natchez Burning trilogy need not worry—as Iles does a wonderful job keeping things fresh and exciting in a number of ways. While the bulk of the running themes—power, greed, love, deception—are things he’s touched on before, they’re just as compelling as ever here, and Marshall, who is well-developed and relatable, is more than capable of carrying the story, which does feel like it may be a bit too long, but still reads incredibly fast. 

Greg Iles does it again, offering up a compelling, double-dose of southern crime . . . Cemetery Road is a must-read for anyone calling themselves a fan of the genre. 

Book Details

Author: Greg Iles
Pages: 608 (Hardcover)
ISBN:0062824619
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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