The Quiet Game: Southern legal thriller that’s just too much

I’m not a big reader of crime novels or legal thrillers. But, I know some of their standard literary devices and stereotypes. In The Quiet Game, Greg Iles falls back on those devices and stereotypes so frequently that, at times, I felt like I was reading a parody.

Don’t get me wrong. It was an entertaining read. I just can’t imagine that The Quiet Game is that good compared to the top tier novels in this genre. It’s certainly not nearly as good as the three John Grisham novels I’ve read. And, it’s very different (in an inferior sort of way) than mysteries I’ve read such as the Maigret stories by Georges Simenon or The Lake of Darkness by Ruth Rendell.

A page turner. A pot-boiler. There’s no doubt The Quiet Game narrative moves right along, and the plot has twists and turns galore. Action. Adventure. Intrigue. So much so, that the other words that come to mind include contrived, melodramatic, even ridiculous. How many times can the hero, Penn Cage be shot at by the bad guys in a two week period, and most of those shots in the small town of Natchez, Mississippi? Twice? Thrice? Four times? I stopped counting.

In addition to the plot being over the top, the characters take stereotyping, especially Southern stereotyping, to new heights:

– The good-hearted, honest, handsome, crusading, Ole Miss alum and lawyer–Penn Cage–is the hero. He is so wonderful, that not one, but two beautiful women are throwing themselves at him.

–  His father, the good-hearted, honest, world-weary Atticus Finch-like, cigar-chomping small town doctor, who treats everyone, including, yes especially, African-Americans, with respect and dignity.

– Of course, both father and son are atheists of the Old Southern aristocratic variety. Much too wise to be Christians themselves, they nonetheless are tolerant and respectful of the faith of those who do believe, especially…..

– African-American Christians. Of course, the person with the strongest faith is the elderly, black maid who has loyally served the doctor and his family for years, and is, thus, practically family.

– The mind-bogglingly beautiful, passionate, intelligent, mysterious, rich Southern Belle. Although groomed to matriculate at Ole Miss, she instead, in one of the many early mysteries of the novel, attends one of the few other schools acceptable to genteel southerners, the University of Virginia.

– The crazy, dangerous, racist, evil redneck/one-time policeman. His villainy is made all the more heinous because he bears the same last name as one of the great saints of Mississippi. Ray Presley is bad to the bone and beyond.

– The good-hearted FBI agent, driven to drink by the injustices he’s seen perpetrated by Evil Edgar (as in Director, J. Edgar) Hoover, fired by the Bureau to cover up their own nefarious dealings, but who at age 70 can still perform in the pinch like a 25 year-old Navy Seal.

I could go on. It’s all really too much.

I decided to read The Quiet Game after hearing an interview with Iles. He sounded like an intelligent and likable guy.  We’re about the same age. He’s a fellow Mississippian, and this book is set in Natchez.

If you’re in the mood for a dark, rollicking, good-guys-versus-bad-guys, stereotypical Southern legal thriller — and, you’ve read all of Grisham’s novels already — then, prepare to put aside your disbelief and pick up a copy of Greg Iles’ The Quiet Game.

For me, I think I’ll go back to Inspector Maigret, or check out some of Grisham’s newer stuff.

One thought on “The Quiet Game: Southern legal thriller that’s just too much

  1. I’ve only read one of Iles’ books, but, for the most part, I enjoyed it. The characters had depth, the setting was lovely, and the plot was multi-layered. However, I was disappointed that my guess (posited fairly early on) about the ultimate resolution proved to be correct. I like more of a puzzle at the center of a mystery that challenges me to think. Dorothy L Sayers was the Master puzzle-crafter.

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