Ridley Pearson

"Parallel Lies"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark JUL 7, 2001)

"And if so: who's guilty, and who's innocent?"

Two men with fates altered by lies - one seeks revenge, the other redemption - are on a parallel course to seek the truth.

Umberto Alvarez lost everything 3 years earlier when his wife and two children were killed by a passing train after a crossing guard failed to stop her car from going over the tracks. Northern Union Railroad, however, disclaims this version of the accident saying instead that the car stalled on the tracks, at no fault of their own. Alvarez believes the one witness (whose call to 911 has vanished from the records) and wants Northern Union to fess up. Whereas Alvarez was once a husband, father and a science teacher from Illinois, he is now a terrorist intent on single-handedly bringing down Northern Union Railroad.

Ex-cop Peter Tyler lost his job, his girlfriend and is close to losing his home all caused by a brief moment in which he beat a man to near death. Tyler lost it when he saw this drunken man swinging a baby by her feet, driving her head against the wall. Acting in self-defense and sheer rage over the baby on the floor, Tyler beat the man uncontrollably. However, in court, the prosecutor made his case by playing up that the man Tyler beat was black and made it look as if Tyler enjoyed beating him, thus explaining the reason he didn't stop. It was easier for the media to jump to conclusions and believe the worse in a person than to seek out the facts. Although acquitted, Tyler's eleven years as a homicide detective came to an abrupt end.

Now Tyler's had an unexpected break and is hired to help the National Transportation Safety Board investigate a bloody empty box car in St. Louis, Missouri. He believes he really needs to do well on this temporary assignment for the money and for the chance at permanent employment. Northern Union has sent their own investigator, Nell Priest, and she seems intent on leaving him behind in the investigation. Although it would seem they would want to work together, its the purpose of their respective paperwork that puts them at odds. After all, Priest is employed by and is a shareholder of Northern Union. Peter Tyler's skills as a homicide detective are telling him that this case is more complicated than what he was hired to do. Perhaps Alvarez is not the bad guy. And Nell Priest is beginning to see what he means.

As indicated by the title, Pearson delves into the subject of trains, those wondrous machines that transport freight across the country, "getting stuff from one place to another." He plays with the nostalgic image of trains "the sound in your ears, and that rumble up your legs," giving us a sense of the modern day "rider" community (politically correct term for hobo as we learn in this novel), and the effort to introduce a high speed train system into this country and its awesome technology. However, he also makes a subtle comparison between the older and newer trains, when he writes "In the near silence, Alvarez became aware that there was no rhythm to this bullet train, no cadence. They had robbed train travel of its soul." On a less abstruse but parallel note, the plot Pearson weaves takes a good hard look at the soullessness of today's business in light of shareholder greed.

Parallel Lies is exactly the kind of book that made me a Ridley Pearson fan in the past. It's fast paced and technically thorough, offering a plot line so credible that it makes you wonder if perhaps it couldn't have happened this way. (It's a good thing this book wasn't published until now or else Amtrak might have had to sue Pearson for loss of passengers on the Acela Express maiden voyage.) This novel has all of the usual Ridley Pearson investigative tricks and techniques that add up to him being considered one of the best techno-thriller writers today.

  • Amazon reader rating: from 66 reviews


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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Featuring Lou Boldt and Daphne Matthews:

Featuring Sheriff Walt Fleming:

* Lou Boldt helps out!


Stand-alone Thrillers:

International Thriller Series:

The Risk Agent (June 2012)

For kids:

Writing as Wendell McCall:

Writing with David Barry:


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Book Marks:


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About the Author:

Ridley PearsonRidley Pearson raised in Riverside, Connecticut was the first American to be awarded the Raymond Chandler/Fulbright Fellowship in detective fiction at Oxford University, and his novel No Witnesses was selected by the ALA as one the best fiction books of 1994. Pearson's Lou Boldt series is being produced as an A&E original movie. For eleven years, Pearson was on the road as a folk-rock musician and has been a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, along with Stephen King and Amy Tan. Pearson lives in Hailey, Idaho with his wife, Marcelle, and young daughters, Paige and Storey. 

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