By Charles Winecoff
Updated October 15, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s a tribute to Iles’ flair for characterization that this capacious thriller — about a widowed Houston prosecutor who returns to his Mississippi hometown to grieve but finds himself drawn to an unsolved racially motivated murder — grabs you fast and keeps you glued. Throughout the story, Iles pushes his serpentine political conspiracy, soap opera subplots, and far-fetched action sequences to the edge of caricature, but he always manages to pull back just before any credibility is lost. Such a stunt wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if his cast of living, breathing Southerners in The Quiet Game didn’t make you care.