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Suspense/Thriller

Red Tide, G.M. Ford, Avon, $6.99.

Red Tide by G.M. Ford

I've long been a fan of Ford's Frank Corso books - which evolved from his Leo Waterman series - and in this one, while Frank is certainly a presence, Ford pushes Frank to the side a bit as he writes a straight up, and very compelling, thriller. This book could scarcely be more frighteningly contemporary. It begins at photographer Meg Dougherty's art opening. Police come into the gallery and clear everyone, not only out of the gallery, but out of the neighborhood. There's been a biological terrorist incident in the Seattle subway, with people dropping dead of a mysterious ebola like virus that kills almost instantly. Corso sneaks over to the crime scene; Meg, meanwhile heads home and thinks she sees the man who had tortured her years ago coming out of her house. She had thought he was still in prison. She and her taxi driver follow the man all over the city to no avail; she and Frank only meet up again after Meg returns home and finds a dead body in her kitchen.

This novel has so many threads it's sometimes distracting; all are interesting and gripping, and as a reader I was somewhat annoyed as Ford jumped from plot to plot. Obviously the several plots are all interrelated, and as Ford begins to tie his threads together about three quarters of the way through the novel, I couldn't put it down. I thought it should have been either longer or tighter, but I loved the ride. I also enjoyed the scary look inside of what a biological terror outbreak might be like. It seems far scarier and more intangible than anything that has happened in real life so far; Ford may have hit on the ultimate scare factor. There are some wonderful sidebar characters too, and Ford is such a pro, he can sketch them in with very little effort or words (of course a pro is able to make this look easy). Most memorable is the stuck in the mid level job T.V. reporter - he's known as the "parka guy" - who has the reporting day of his life and ends up smack in the middle of all the trouble. In a way he's the everyman observer, and if that's what's in store for "everyman", well, we'd all better watch out. This is a smart thriller that will leave you thinking after you've finished it; the real puzzle is why Ford isn't a bigger success than he is, because he has all the tools. Well kept secret or no, it should behoove a lucky reader who's never heard of him to get to the book shelf and hunt up one of his novels

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