books scream blockbuster movie, and Ridley Pearson's latest is just such a screamer. The author of 17 novels may not be as the jacket copy claims "the best thriller writer on the planet," but if he isn't, he's got whoever is in first place looking over his shoulder.

In Parallel Lies, Pearson uses a classic hunter/hunted plot. The hunter is Peter Tyler, a disgraced former homicide cop trying to make a new life for himself by tracking down a railroad hobo who may be a serial killer. The hunted is former high school teacher Umberto Alvarez, who at first appears to be only a crazed railroad saboteur.

As the paths of the hunter and the hunted begin to cross, it becomes clear that Alvarez is more than just a revenge-obsessed lunatic out to destroy the railroad company he blames for the death of his wife and two children. Tyler comes oh-so-close to catching Alvarez early in the action, only to lose him. But Tyler stays close as the two play a cat and mouse game in which the object for both men is to find and expose the truth.

As in the best of such stories think of the movie version of The Fugitive the hunter begins to empathize with the hunted. Readers, too, will be torn by conflicting loyalties as they watch two likeable and honorable men approaching what seems to be a deadly confrontation.

The culmination of the plot brings the two men together on what may be a doomed supertrain. Will either of the two men survive? What is the secret that may have led to the death of Alvarez's wife and children? What truly rivets the reader is that there is no way to accurately predict which twists and turns Pearson's plot may take, or even who will survive the climax.

This is a "big bucket of popcorn" novel. It has building tension, likeable characters, a believable love story between Tyler and a female railroad security officer, resourceful bad guys, an absorbing behind-the-scenes exploration of the modern railroad industry and a truly explosive climax. Get a jump on your fellow moviegoers and read this thriller before it hits the big screen.

William Marden is a freelance writer who lives and works in Orange Park, Florida.

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