M. Ford's latest novel, Red Tide, begins innocuously enough in Seattle's Pioneer Square bus station at rush hour. Hordes of distracted homebound commuters line the concourse. A puff of smoke rises from the platform. In mere moments, the station erupts in pandemonium as passengers crash one by one to the floor, writhing in pain. The scene is eerily reminiscent of the 1995 Tokyo subway poisoning, in which deadly sarin gas took the lives of 11 people and injured hundreds more, but it quickly becomes obvious that this new attack eclipses anything that has gone before. A short distance away in a downtown hotel, experts from around the world gather for a symposium on chemical and biological weapons; it can be no coincidence that the perpetrators have chosen this particular time and place for their strike. Red Tide features reclusive crime writer Frank Corso, appearing here in his fourth outing. Corso operates at the edges of the law, his unofficial standing giving him investigative latitude not enjoyed by the more conventional members of the law enforcement community. He displays a ferret-like ability to stick his nose in places where it is not welcome, a complaint registered in equal measure by law enforcement and lawbreakers. It will take all of his considerable talents to get to the bottom of the Seattle horror before countless more lives are lost. In Red Tide, Ford has crafted a novel as timely as today's headlines, and as scary as tomorrow's.

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