Penzler Pick, June 2001:
Ridley Pearson, who has written 14 previous books, many of them featuring his Seattle cop Lou Boldt
, ups the ante in his latest thriller.
Northern Union Railroad has been experiencing a series of accidents with their freight trains, but it is not until they find a freight car covered with blood that they call in outside help. Peter Tyler used to be a cop until he nearly beat a black man to death and lost his badge. When he gets a second chance via an old friend at the National Transportation Safety Board, he drives a convertible through a snowstorm with the top down (he suffers from claustrophobia) to view the freight car. He arrives at the scene to discover that he will have to deal with Northern Union's own security officer, Nell Priest, a black woman who already knows Tyler's history.
Meanwhile, Umberto Alvarez, the train wrecker, is systematically working his way towards his ultimate wreck, Northern's F.A.S.T. train due to make its maiden run from New York to Washington, D.C. Alvarez lost his wife and children when their car stalled between the gates at a crossing and were crushed by one of Northern's trains. Although Northern Union was cleared of all responsibility and Alvarez's wife was found negligent, he doesn't think that's so.
As Peter Tyler's investigation proceeds, he begins to come to the same conclusion. Closing in on Alvarez, he tries to interview the crossing guard who was on duty the day the wreck occurred. On arriving at the man's apartment, he finds the man bludgeoned to death--with the same stick with which Tyler beat the black man all that time ago. It's time to get paranoid. Who at Northern is covering up and what role does Nell play in all this? As always in a Ridley Pearson thriller, the action doesn't stop until the final page. --Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
Pearson forsakes his franchise character, Seattle police detective Lou Boldt, for a railroad thriller that wobbles on its tracks. The hero here is Peter Tyler, a former Washington, D.C., homicide cop who was fired many say unjustly for beating a child-abuse suspect. Desperate for money, Tyler gets thrown a bone by an old friend who handles investigations for the National Transportation Safety Board. Handed a three-day contract, Tyler is assigned to check out a messy murder aboard a boxcar on a Northern Union Railroad line in rural Illinois. Nothing about the murder makes sense, but more intriguing to Tyler are the persistent rumors about why so many NUR trains have derailed in the past year. When Tyler turns up a suspect not only for the murder but also the derailments, he quickly finds that his services are no longer needed. Helped only by a railroad security officer, the lovely Nell Priest, Tyler follows the trail to New York City. That's where he believes the murderous vandal, who's seeking revenge for the railroad-related deaths of his wife and twin daughters, plans to sabotage the grand opening of NUR's most ambitious project: a bullet train connecting New York with the nation's capital. Pearson (Middle of Nowhere) keeps up his usual breakneck pace, and for excitement alone, his latest is good fun. But the story is marred by several false notes, imponderable plot twists and a clumsily executed love affair giving a squishy feel to an otherwise hard-edged thriller. Of greater concern, however, is Tyler. He simply never emerges as a character of substance or distinction. (July)Forecast: Despite Pearson's bestselling clout, a major/ad promo campaign and an eight-city author tour, tepid reviews and weak word of mouth may limit sales of this lackluster, Boldt-less effort.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.