The Quiet Game
Author: Greg Iles
My copy of The Quiet Game has the words “introducing Penn Cage” prominently displayed on the front cover. I’m not sure if the first printing of this book had those same words on there, but this certainly felt like an author’s introduction to a character and a setting he plans on expanding more on in the future. Prior to reading this book I’d read several of Iles’s other books set in Natchez, Mississippi. Out of all his books set there, The Quiet Game used the location the best telling a story that spanned decades and include multiple generations of family drama.
When we first meet Penn Cage, he’s already retired as a Houston prosecutor who’s sent a dozen men to death row. He’s still young, he’s a best selling author, and his wife has died leaving him the sole parents of his young daughter. The turmoil in his life leads him to bringing his daughter back home to Natchez where his parents live so she can have some more stability and support in her life. Penn ends up giving an interview to a sexy reporter and mentions a decades old racial murder cold case. The victim’s surviving family members from that case approach him to solve the thirty year old murder (which I’m not sure retired prosecutors are the best candidates for doing) and although Penn refuses he is immediately drawn into the consequences of associating himself with it and his danger lurks around every corner.
The cast of supporting characters felt large but Iles did a nice job of giving characters specific traits that reminded the reader of who they were whenever they showed up. There’s the incumbent mayor, the mayoral challenger, Penn’s father who is the town doctor, the man blackmailing his father, there’s the black cop with a secret, the sexy reporter, Penn’s high school sweetheart, the sweetheart’s dad who is a retired Judge, the current district attorney, the FBI agent who originally investigated the murder, the victim’s surviving family, the security guy Penn hires to keep him safe, the new Judge in town, the waitress who seems very interested in Penn Cage, the current director of the FBI who has beef with Penn, J. Edgar Hoover’s ghost, the Cage family maid, and several others. Within in this group, a handful will die, there are killers, and secrets abound for all.
There were two plot twists that I felt comfortable predicting well ahead of time, one of which I ended up being wrong and the other I was right. At one point in the book, Cage suspects that the man he’s trying to prove guilty of murder may also have a sordid sexual secret as well. When Cage comes to the realization that this is a possibility, I rolled my eyes a bit as it seemed like one other layer that was not adding anything to the plot. A short time later it’s revealed Penn (and I) was wrong, and it kind of reaffirmed that this was one of the best Iles book I’d read. When some taped conversations are revealed to exist in a surprising place later on and then casually ignored, I successfully predicted the end of the book. If the book had ended without that twist, I think it still would have worked but it’s literally in the last few pages of a 600+ page book that I already really enjoyed so I wasn’t particularly bothered by it.
I’m excited to come back and see how this character gets wrapped up in another thriller. As a stand alone story this did a nice job of wrapping up all the plot threads and I don’t have an expectation of where Iles will take Cage next. The most likely candidate from the beginning of the book gets resolved midway through this one almost as an afterthought. My worry with these types of series is that they become ludicrous due to the characters always getting drawn into the types of serial murders that happen once in a generation on a national level and not multiple times in the same community. For now I’m willing to give Iles the benefit of the doubt.