I found Cemetery Road in the tenant library in the basement of our apartment building, and was intrigued by the jacket blurb which promised a classic southern noir novel filled with family secrets and good old boys. The setting is Bienville, Mississippi, a town on the river bluffs that has had its share of economic ups and downs. Marshall McEwan, a native son who left Bienville to become a political journalist in D.C., has returned to see his dying father, the editor of the town newspaper. McEwan left at age eighteen in the sad aftermath of his older brother’s accidental death.
Once again Bienville is down on its economic heels, but a Chinese company is in negotiation to build a large paper mill. It’s a miracle that no one wants to derail, most of all the Poker Club, a group of corrupt businessmen and politicians who’ve run the town for generations.
The Chinese are ready to commit but a local amateur archaeologist has found remains of a very old Native American settlement on the grounds of the factory site. If there are bones among his findings, the state will take over to investigate. The Chinese won’t wait; the archaeologist is found dead. Murder? The Poker Club does its best to brand it an accident. With the aid of Denny, a teen with a passion for drones, McEwan goes to work trying to prove that the Poker Club is behind the murder. He’s also trying to win back Jet, his first love, and make peace with his father.
There are lots of back stories here–old family tragedies, war stories from Vietnam and Iraq–all very well told–which ramp up our investment in the characters. As the novel goes on, nasty motivations are laid bare and there’s more violence. Will McEwan be able to expose the corruption of the Poker Club buddies? Will he win back Jet? Will he take over the newspaper and stay in Bienville? No spoilers here. A little over-the-top but very entertaining.