G.M. Ford gives Dan Brown a good run for the money in his new thrillerRed Tide, a wild rollercoaster of a read that takes on a timely subject and adds some new and intriguing twists. The hero is a fave of many Ford fans – former journalist Frank Corso, who now fancies himself a Sam Spade for the new millennium. This time, Corso and his old flame, photographer Meg Dougherty, find themselves in the wrong place and the wrong time when a terrorist attack occurs in a downtown Seattle tunnel, leaving over a hundred people dead.
Word leaks out that the terrorists used a deadly form of Ebola, engineered to kill fast and kill as many as possible. Corso is on the job immediately - but don’t tell this to the local law enforcement, who are looking for him as a suspect. Things only get worse when Meg finds a man decapitated in her kitchen; a man she once loved who is now suspected to have been one of the terrorists. Suddenly, the two find themselves wanted by the powers that be, and they can run but they cannot hide.
As Corso struggles to find clues to the real identities of the terrorists, and save his and Meg’s butts from prison, the terrorists threaten to strike again, this time with even deadlier intent. Now Frank must join forces with the local police, a reporter named Jim Sexton who is on a personal quest to prove his worth, and a slew of government goons out to track down the terrorists, and stomp all over the legal rights of citizens as they do.
What makes this thriller so timely and tense is the not only the bio-terrorism plotline, but the inclusion of the many ways the Patriot Act is destroying the basic Constitutional rights of American citizens. Author Ford, who has given us plenty of Frank Corso-action in three previous novels, now takes us on a thrill ride with powerful implications for what could actually happen should such an attack occur nowadays, including the threats to Frank and Meg of incarceration without access to a lawyer.
Another great plus for this book is the fact that the terrorists are not the usual Muslims or Al-Qaeda (that is getting WAY boring, writers!) but instead are from another country entirely and have such a powerful agenda for revenge, you almost find yourself agreeing with their desire to seek justice. Ford makes the “evil-doers” understandable and almost sympathetic, yet still turns our stomachs with their violent and cold-hearted means to an end. These are real, fleshed-out enemies with agendas that make sense, from their point of view.
By the time the story ends, there has been enough car and foot chases, close calls, acts of violence, near-misses, bloody fights, missed opportunities and acts of sheer courage that you feel spent. I read the book in one sitting – my own personal hallmark of a great thriller (if I don’t want to finish it in one night, it just isn’t thrilling enough!). I found the plotline compelling and chilling, especially the suggestions of how dangerous the Patriot Act is as a tradeoff for “homeland security.” This is a real warning to those people who believe you must give up freedoms to have freedoms. Add to that a just plain fun and exciting story and Red Tide succeeds as an honest-to-goodness page-turner with enough heat to stand up to those mega-blockbuster Dan Brown thrillers… or at least get pretty darned close.