The Quiet Game
by Greg Iles
1999 / 640 pages
read by Tom Stechschulte 20h
rating: B+ / crime –
(Penn Cage series #1)
A slow start but in the last half the tension gets as thick as the Mississippi mud of the setting. I got this thinking it was your normal legal thriller (my favorite genre) but for a long ways it’s neither much legal nor “thrilling” – in the sense of what shares that genre’s shelves. Then it all picks up and everything fits together and the pages turn by themselves and midnight oil gets burned.
This is the second Greg Iles book I’ve read – the first was The Devil’s Punchbowl – and this is definitely better and I’m interested in reading another one in the Penn Cage series.
Penn Cage, our 1st person narrator, is a former prosecuting attorney and current crime novelist, who returns with his young daughter to his family home in Natchez to grieve and recuperate from the death of his wife. There he finds his father needs some help getting out from under a blackmailer. But after being in Natchez only a couple days he’s approached by the new young publisher of the local paper about an old unresolved murder – she’s busily pursuing a Pulitzer so it gets front page and the victim’s now aging widow comes to visit. Naturally Cage gets interested in the 1968 murder of Del Peyton, what is apparently a racially motivated crime. Turns out this case is more complicated and more people are involved than meets the eye – but nobody involved has ever talked about it. And even when they start talking there are still more secrets because they all play “The Quiet Game.”
Meanwhile, as a new widower, there are women interested in Cage. Caitlin Masters, the young publisher, and Olivia Marson, the daughter of the local judge who was the District Attorney when Peyton was killed , both have little designs on him – but Caitlin is quite young and Olivia has old twisted ties to Cage – a huge part of the plot. All the “good-guy” characters are very nicely drawn – they come to be friends. The bad guys are a bit flat but I suppose that’s usually the way of the genre.
Yes, there’s some action and chase and a fire and so on, some guns including a great scenario which plays out in Colorado. And there’s some philosophizing about the nature of the South and man’s souls. Overall, it’s a complex and intelligently written book including some surprising plot twists and the tension builds slowly to a very satisfying courtroom ending.