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The Railroad Man Paperback – June 16, 2014
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About the Author
John V. Pasquariello has been employed in the railroad industry for over thirty years, holding various positions from marketing and sales to signal maintenance to his current position as a locomotive engineer for a New Jersey-based commuter transit agency. He is married and the father of two sons. The Railroad Man is his debut novel.
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The “railroad man” is a railroad cop for a regional freight carrier, which introduces a narrow band of law enforcement that is seldom portrayed in fiction. Unavoidably, we have the high-mileage veteran cop whose career is taking a low bounce rebound following a devastating incident while with the New Jersey State Police. That incident leaves him with a mild physical handicap as well as a more troubling emotional one. He is partnered with not only a rookie (of course), but a rookie on his very first night of duty. Mike’s obligation to inform Todd of everything they need to do conveniently keeps the reader up to speed through insult-laden and sarcasm-drenched dialog.
An ordinary, boring night changes direction when they arrest an eccentric female trespasser with an unbelievable story. Too unbelievable to be fabricated, Mike takes it seriously and begins an investigation. Fellow railroaders, coming and going through the freight yard office/police department headquarters, mock Mike for his gullibility of believing the girl’s incredible tale as they tease him for apparently falling for her alluring beauty.
Using MacGyver-style C.S.I. forensics and the aid of a State Police contact, Mike traces a fingerprint on the damsel’s shoe to a preeminent international terrorist. He turns out to be one of an equal opportunity cast of villains that include Al Qaeta (Al Qaeda [you say tomato, I say domado]) fanatics, Cuban weapons smugglers, and mercenary Russians. The reader should have no trouble finding a villain to hate.
The endless night--and Mike and Todd’s shift--extend into the following afternoon as the shrinking number of villains continuously modify their plans to nuke Manhattan from nearby Jersey City rail yards. The gabby villains have no qualms about sharing their plans and the extent of the damage to be inflicted, whether during gunpoint confrontations or over the company’s radio. Naturally, there is a highjacked train, and Mike and his over-worked adrenal glands must stop it while respecting the sophisticated detonation software that controls it.
If the story is too much to believe up to this point, the good news is that the reader’s intelligence is not grossly insulted concerning the operations of trains and railroads. Indeed, if the reader ever desired instruction on how to make a diesel-electric locomotive stop or go or how to manually throw a switch protected by an electric lock, Mr. Pasquariello provides it here. If anything, he tends to err too much on the side of detail, as horsepower ratings, pressure gauge readings, and model numbers occasionally slow the action. The few of us conversant with such minutia enjoy confirming their accuracy. As a long-time resident of northern New Jersey who has spent a considerable number of hours along the right-of-way of the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway, this reviewer especially enjoyed the accurate descriptions of locations along the fictional Midland Railroad, which is obviously based on the “Suzy-Q.”
While it may never be in question that The Battery won’t get battered or that Mike and Laura will eventually smooch, this is fiction. Its purpose is to entertain and provide an escape. At a time when our government seems determined not to develop a viable plan to protect us from terrorism, it is slightly comforting to know that the “railroad man” is willing and able to do so.
The book is a very tense thriller which bears all the marks of the best works in genre - a gruff cop main character, a beautiful girl victim, cruel criminals with their devilish plot, and a breathtaking chain of events. Once events are set in motion their pace ever increases and goes absolutely climatic near the conclusion. But there is more to this - author put all events on a railroad, and the book is filled with intricate and accurate insider knowledge about functioning of railways and locomotives. Actually, it is the knowledge of the railway which enables main character to thwart the criminals' plot and save the girl. Both fan of a thriller and a railroad geek should absolutely put their hand on The Railroad Man.
The only reason I gave this book four stars is that some parts of the plot are bordering on cliche. The main character is a former cop with personal problems. The girl victim is immensely beautiful. The criminals are absolutely inhuman and their plan is a biggest crime in the history of mankind. The failure of the criminals' plan is to a large extent due to the unlikely coinscidence. But we can view this from the different direction - all of the above is not cliche but classics. After all, thriller genre has rules like any other.
My conclusion is that out of five starts The Railroad Man receives very solid and confident four. Well done!