RED TIDE is a thriller by Seattle based GM Ford. Ford has shifted gears from a series about a PI to one about Frank Corso, disgraced journalist. When over a hundred people die in a Seattle bus tunnel, the city fathers know that terrorists have struck. The town is hosting an international conference on bio-terrorism. This comes in handy later on.
Meanwhile Meg, the Illustrated Woman, Corso’s once and future lover, finds a corpse on her kitchen floor. It’s the man who covered her from head to toe with tattoes in a previous novel, Blind Eye. While she deals with that, Corso invades the bus tunnel to discover what’s really happening in underground Seattle.
Don’t ask why, he’s the protagonist. Ford has adopted to the thriller genre perhaps all too well. We meet a lot of characters including ‘Parka Boy’, a local newscaster. His career is in jeopardy; his boss calls him ‘Jimbo.’ Jimbo has a nice speech near the novel’s conclusion; he’s mad as hell and won’t wear his parka on Snoqualmie Pass the next time it snows.
The genesis of the story is the Bhopal disaster in 1984. Corso is an interesting character, and Meg’s story is bizarre and intriguing. The book is crowded with point of view characters whose principal task is to remind us that the official response to most emergencies is utter confusion. The pace is fast, the weird science is interesting, and the climax suitably complex. Keep your A-Z Seattle maps handy; East Republican and East Mercer don’t intersect.
RED TIDE employs a lot of thriller technique that pushes pacing, but ultimately diminishes the reader’s emotional involvement. We see the story through too many eyes; Corso and Meg are the most interesting characters. When we’re with them, Ford’s skills as a writer emerge. Much of the rest feels like screenplay scenes; this has film adaptation written all over it. Roll em.