Iraqi war vet and former railway cop Sydney Parnell is now the youngest homicide detective in Denver’s Major Crimes Unit. In the past, gut instinct has served her and her K9 partner well. But it’s not a trait Len Bandoni, her old nemesis turned reluctant mentor, admires. Not until Sydney’s instincts lead to their first case: a man tortured and beaten to death, then left in a refrigerated train car with cryptic messages carved into his body.
The victim is a well-liked member of an elite club called the Superior Gentlemen. At first glance, the club appears harmless. But beneath its refined surface swim darker currents.
As Sydney; her K9 partner, Clyde; and Bandoni investigate the grisly murder, the three develop a bond that carries them through a shocking series of crimes and a horrifying conspiracy that threatens the detectives’ lives and promises to bring their beloved city to its knees.
I finally finished this one last night, but feel like I’ve spent the entire week trying to savour it slowly, like a fine cognac and yet, wanting to race through it at breakneck speed! You know what it’s like reading one of your favourite author character combinations. That thrill of opening a new book, and jumping headlong into a story that is not only so cleverly written, but with a twisted plot that has you stretched as tight as piano wire with anticipation. The tension is so visceral my nerves were shredded by the end.
GONE TO DARKNESS is book 4 in the Sydney Parnell series by Barbara Nickless, and while these books could be read as stand-alone reads, benefit from reading in order because of Sydney’s character arc, growth, and the unfolding of her backstory, which are essential to understanding her, her state of mind, and actions. Sydney is one of those characters that is made stronger by her flaws, doubts, and fears, because she refuses to give in, and refuses to give up, not only on others in need, but also, herself.
The author writes like a seasoned, long time pro. Her prose are effortless and probably belie the work and sheer weight of research that has gone into writing this series to make it feel authentic and, at the same time, utterly believable.
The characters, the situations they find themselves in, and the cleverly twisted plot focused, this time, on a group of men whose hatred eats away at them. Despicable acts, heinous crimes, this read is not for the faint of heart and yet, Nickless delivers several shocking moments with a deft hand. Careful to find the balance between the brutal and the macabre with her descriptions, using her characters as a filter for us, to see the damage done, second-hand.
This is another aspect of what makes her storytelling so damn good. She can chill you to the bone but still, know where the line is. It’s the same with her characters reactions to these scenes of what could have been overwhelming graphic violence. But the way Nickless writes her scenes is so effect, we, the reader, still get the full weight of the horror without having to live through it, on the page. This makes the telling all the more terrifying.
And, Gone to Darkness definitely steps out of the light and into the dark recesses of the twisted mind of someone bordering on the very definition of evil. But, thankfully for us, Nickless has armed her character, Sydney, with the strength to not only get through the ordeal we’re all put through, but also the will to survive to fight another day.
From character building, to setting the scene, to chilling the reader to the bone, and then, offering a moment of light at the end of a dark tunnel, Nickless wields her words with depth, empathy, and intelligence, making Gone to Darkness yet another thrilling and chilling read that will stay with you long after you’ve turned over the last page.
GONE TO DARKNESS
Sydney Rose Parnell #4
Thomas & Mercer, 2020
Paperback, 368 pages