Most people that know me know that I am a huge Greg Iles fan. I recommend his Penn Cage series to anyone that will listen, especially those that live in the South. A good friend recently said, “Being a Southerner and have not read Iles is like not having read Grisham.” And it’s true! The way that Iles writes the South is unlike any other and captures the essence of the South so beautifully.
In his first stand-alone since his Penn Cage Trilogy (Natchez Burning, The Bone Tree, and Mississippi Blood) which focuses around civil rights, Cemetery Road tells a story of life in a small struggling town, political corruptness, and a forbidden love triangle.
In one of the best opening chapters in literary history, we’re introduced to Marshall who “never meant to kill [his] brother.” Like most Southern men, at some point we find ourselves coming home to take care of our families. He has withdrawn from a very successful Washington DC reporting career to help his ailing and estranged father keep his small Mississippi town newspaper afloat.
Shortly after his arrival Buck, a father-figure to Marshall is found floating in the Mississippi River. His wounds aren’t consistent with a fall or drowning and Marshall begins to find that perhaps some people of the community thought Buck was sticking his nose too far where it didn’t belong, potentially jeopardizing a business development that would be detrimental to the town’s success.
In typical Iles fashion, the writing is phenomenal and the plot is full of twists and suspense that keeps you flying through the pages.
Alice “No Body” James wants to get as far away as she can from Harlem, she finds herself on a Pullman car with two bullet wounds straight through her chest, headed for Oregon in 1921. “No Body” is a nickname for her capacity to hide in plain sight. Which I think a lot of us can relate to in some aspect, but “No Body” is whoever you want her to be- or rather, whoever she feels she needs to be. On this Pullman car, she meets Max, who takes her immediately to the only hotel in Portland that accepts people of color. While Alice isn’t black, it’s clear she doesn’t fancy herself for a normal doctor. Max takes her to The Paragon Hotel where she meets and quickly befriends a resident, cabaret singer, and the ever so eloquent Blossom Fontaine.
Blossom is my favorite character and I could listen to her talk in her whimsical and witty way forever. Blossom has had the opposite experience of Alice, she has at least as many secrets as Alice. However, Blossoms’ secrets are the kind where she has to be relentlessly herself and defend it in a way where her persona does not waiver, but remain fixed always.
The novel is a double-helix storyline of Alice and Blossom’s friendship at The Paragon Hotel and Harlem, where Alice finds herself in the middle of feuds between the five families of the Italian American Mafia. The story unwinds to reveal an ending that reminds us things aren’t always as they seem and illustrates the depths that we will go to keep others from finding out our secret.
I had the pleasure of meeting Lyndsay Faye at novel., one of my favorite booksellers in Memphis. To celebrate the launch of Dustjacket Reviews, I had Lyndsay autograph two copies of The Paragon Hotel to giveaway. There are two chances to win: one copy will be given away on Instagram and the other will given away on Facebook. This giveaway is open to US residents only. This contest is open Jan 15 to Jan 25 midnight (CST). The winner will be announced on Saturday, Jan 26. Thanks for reading and following on social media.