Tag: Blood on the Tracks

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Reads of 2020

As this hideous year winds down, and we look back at the books we’ve read this year—or, in my case, since I refocused my website towards crime fiction this past summer—we celebrate our favourite and the best of the year as this week’s Top Ten Tuesday from Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

Given I haven’t read that many books since the summer, and of those that I did read, a lot are from previous years, this list is strictly going to be less the best of and more what my favourites were.

So, in no particular order, here’s the books and series I’m raving about:

BLOOD ON THE TRACKS by Barbara Nickless

A young woman is found brutally murdered, and the main suspect is the victim’s fiancé, a hideously scarred Iraq War vet known as the Burned Man. But railroad police Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell, brought in by the Denver Major Crimes unit to help investigate, can’t shake the feeling that larger forces are behind this apparent crime of passion.

In the depths of an icy winter, Parnell and her K9 partner, Clyde―both haunted by their time in Iraq―descend into the underground world of a savage gang of rail riders. There, they uncover a wide-reaching conspiracy and a series of shocking crimes. Crimes that threaten everything Parnell holds dear.

As the search for the truth puts her directly in the path of the killer, Parnell must struggle with a deadly question: Can she fight monsters without becoming one herself?

Crime Fiction | Suspense | Mystery : Thomas & Mercer, 2016

FALLOUT by Sara Paretsky

Before there was Lisbeth Salander, before there was Stephanie Plum, there was V.I. WARSHAWSKI. To her parents, she’s Victoria Iphigenia. To her friends, she’s Vic. But to clients seeking her talents as a detective, she’s V.I. And her new case will lead her from her native Chicago… and into Kansas, on the trail of a vanished film student and a faded Hollywood star.

Accompanied by her dog, V.I. tracks her quarry through a university town, across fields where missile silos once flourished — and into a past riven by long-simmering racial tensions, a past that holds the key to the crimes of the present. But as the mysteries stack up, so does the body count. And in this, her toughest case, not even V.I. is safe.

Crime Fiction | Detective | Suspense : William Morrow, 2017

AND FIRE CAME DOWN by Emma Viskic

Caleb Zelic used to meet life head-on. Now he’s struggling just to get through the day. His best mate is dead, his ex-wife, Kat, is avoiding him, and nightmares haunt his waking hours.

But when a young woman is killed after pleading for his help in sign language, Caleb is determined to find out who she was. And the trail leads straight to his hometown, Resurrection Bay. The town is on bushfire alert and simmering with racial tensions. As he delves deeper, Caleb uncovers secrets that could threaten his life and any chance of reuniting with Kat. Driven by his demons, he pushes on. But who is he willing to sacrifice along the way?

Crime Fiction | Suspense | Noir Mystery : Pushkin Press, 2018

THE KINGDOM OF THE BLIND by Louise Penny

When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder.

None of them had ever met the elderly woman.

The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane?

When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing. But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing.

Crime Fiction | Suspense | Murder-Mystery : Minotaur Books, 2018

BAD DAY AT THE VULTURE CLUB by Vaseem Khan

The Parsees are among the oldest, most secretive and most influential communities in the city: respected, envied and sometimes feared.

When prominent industrialist Cyrus Zorabian is murdered on holy ground, his body dumped inside a Tower of Silence – where the Parsee dead are consumed by vultures – the police dismiss it as a random killing. But his daughter is unconvinced.

Chopra, uneasy at entering this world of power and privilege, is soon plagued by doubts about the case.

But murder is murder. And in Mumbai, wealth and corruption go in hand in hand, inextricably linking the lives of both high and low.

Crime Fiction | Murder-mystery : Mulholland Books, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Reads

5 Well-Executed Murder-Mysteries

Everybody who reads murder-mysteries probably has their favourite books as well as their favourite go-to authors. Well, for this last week leading up to Halloween, I want to share with you 5 of my favourites—yes, I know it’s supposed to be Top Ten Tuesday, but I’m sure That Artsy Reader Girl will forgive me my transgression here

THE ART OF DETECTION by Laurie R. King — The last book in the Kate Martinelli series, this one was a fun read because King has Kate and her partner, Al Hawkin, on the trail of a killer who may have trained with the greatest detective of them all, Sherlock, yes … Sherlock Holmes!

“Kate Martinelli has seen her share of peculiar things as a San Francisco cop, but never anything quite like this: an ornate Victorian sitting room straight out of a Sherlock Holmes story–complete with violin, tobacco-filled Persian slipper, and gunshots in the wallpaper that spell out the initials of the late queen.

Philip Gilbert was a true Holmes fanatic, from his antiquated décor to his vintage wardrobe. And no mere fan of fiction’s great detective, but a leading expert with a collection of priceless memorabilia that some would kill for.

And perhaps someone did: In his collection is a century-old manuscript purportedly written by Holmes himself–a manuscript that eerily echoes details of Gilbert’s own murder.”

THE NATURE OF THE BEAST by Louise Penny — One of my all-time favourite authors, Penny is into her sixteenth or is that, seventeenth Three Pines story featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, head of the Sûreté du Québec. In The Nature of the Beast, Gamache and his wife, Reine Marie, are now living in the not so quiet village of Three Pines when a terrible tragedy occurs.

“Hardly a day goes by when nine year old Laurent Lepage doesn’t cry wolf. From alien invasions, to walking trees, to winged beasts in the woods, to dinosaurs spotted in the village of Three Pines, his tales are so extraordinary no one can possibly believe him. But when the boy disappears the villagers are faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true. And so begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. What they uncover deep in the forest sets off a sequence of events that leads to murder, leads to an old crime, leads to an old betrayal. Leads right to the door of an old poet.”

RESURRECTION BAY by Emma Viskic — The Caleb Zelic series has been one of the best series I’ve come across in a long while. Viskic’s Caleb Zelic is no ordinary investigator, and not your usual character, he’s deaf. But it’s not just Viskic’s unusual character that make this an outstanding series, but her writing style that utterly compliments her character’s disability. Sharp, jagged, and brilliantly written, you cannot go wrong joining Caleb as he solves a series of murders in his own, stubborn, unique way.

“Caleb Zelic, profoundly deaf since early childhood, has always lived on the outside—watching, picking up telltale signs people hide in a smile, a cough, a kiss. When a childhood friend is murdered, a sense of guilt and a determination to prove his own innocence sends Caleb on a hunt for the killer. But he can’t do it alone. Caleb and his troubled friend Frankie, an ex-cop, start with one clue: Scott, the last word the murder victim texted to Caleb. But Scott is always one step ahead.”

BLOOD ON THE TRACKS by Barbara Nickless — This is book one in another new series I just recently discovered and, fell in love with. The writing in this debut is outstanding, as is the plotting, characters, and the murder-mystery it self. All so well written and thought through that I’ve already bought books 2 and 3 in the series.

“A young woman is found brutally murdered, and the main suspect is the victim’s fiancé, a hideously scarred Iraq War vet known as the Burned Man. But railroad police Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell, brought in by the Denver Major Crimes unit to help investigate, can’t shake the feeling that larger forces are behind this apparent crime of passion.

In the depths of an icy winter, Parnell and her K9 partner, Clyde―both haunted by their time in Iraq―descend into the underground world of a savage gang of rail riders. There, they uncover a wide-reaching conspiracy and a series of shocking crimes. Crimes that threaten everything Parnell holds dear. As the search for the truth puts her directly in the path of the killer, Parnell must struggle with a deadly question: Can she fight monsters without becoming one herself?”

CRITICAL MASS by Sara Paretsky — Sara Paretsky has been writing the V. I. Warshawski series for a while now, and each and every murder that Vic finds herself caught up in is always a nail-biting read. What I loved about Critical Mass in particular is Paretsky has twin timelines on the go. One in which Vic finds herself drawn into a series of secrets and lie stretching all the way back to the Second World War. Which is where the second timeline is set—a heartbreaking thread set in Nazi war-torn Austria.

“V.I. Warshawski’s closest friend in Chicago is the Viennese-born doctor Lotty Herschel, who lost most of her family in the Holocaust. Lotty escaped to London in 1939 on the Kindertransport with a childhood playmate, Kitty Saginor Binder. As young women, the two both moved on to Chicago, where they find that a shared past isn’t enough to make them friends. They lead separate lives, but when Kitty’s daughter finds her life is in danger, the younger woman calls Lotty, who, in turn, summons V.I. to help. The daughter’s troubles turn out to be just the tip of an iceberg of lies, secrets, and silence, whose origins go back to the mad competition among America, Germany, Japan and England to develop the first atomic bomb. The secrets are old, but the people who continue to guard them today will not let go of them without a fight.”

And you, what are some of your current favourites?

Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless

Book Summary

A young woman is found brutally murdered, and the main suspect is the victim’s fiancé, a hideously scarred Iraq War vet known as the Burned Man. But railroad police Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell, brought in by the Denver Major Crimes unit to help investigate, can’t shake the feeling that larger forces are behind this apparent crime of passion.

In the depths of an icy winter, Parnell and her K9 partner, Clyde ― both haunted by their time in Iraq ― descend into the underground world of a savage gang of rail riders. There, they uncover a wide-reaching conspiracy and a series of shocking crimes. Crimes that threaten everything Parnell holds dear.

As the search for the truth puts her directly in the path of the killer, Parnell must struggle with a deadly question: Can she fight monsters without becoming one herself?

What I Thought

What is compelling about Blood on the Tracks is that it is tough and gritty, dark and brutal, but also, in places, uplifting and hopeful. And while essentially a murder mystery cut with a great deal of taut suspense, it’s also about family and the bonds of extended family. How they can be both fragile and yet, so strong, as to bind and blind us at the same time.

Like many of the secondary characters, Sydney Rose Parnell is a scarred Iraqi war vet troubled by her past and what she saw in the war. Not only that, she has a deep dark secret she’s sworn never to reveal that, later in the story, threatens to consume her. The more she finds out about the events that shaped her state of being in the here and now, the more troubled she becomes by the revelations. Leaving her wondering who can she trust? An answer that is left open ended and a thread, I am sure, that will be explored in subsequent instalments.

This intriguing side plot effects events as they unfold in the main story, as Parnell searches for a killer. And while we are presented with one person being the possible suspect, Nickless muddies the water when it becomes obvious, this isn’t as clear cut as it seems. We’re presented with a number of other possible scenarios, and the further Sydney digs beneath the surface, tugging at loose threads that reveal more is going on, the more we are drawn down into darker depths.

The stories woven in between the hunt for a killer, highlight a savage underbelly of Nazi-loving skinheads, ritualistic murders, childhood gangs and, ultimately, revenge. And as Sydney and her K9 partner, Clyde, along with Denver murder detective, Cohen, dig, the more they are disgusted by what they find.

Well written, this is at times, taut, fast paced and deeply introspective, as we learn a great deal about the events that shaped Sydney, and her life in Iraq. Eventful, impactive, and revealing, this might be a search for a killer, but it is also so much more. The author really takes us on a journey into bitter events that shape us, and how those events affect us years and decades later. 

I found the author’s writing style easy to read, and, considering this is a debut novel, it was extremely well crafted. From the settings and sense of place, to the depth of all the characters involved, to the pacing which constantly kept us on our toes. This is a thoroughly well researched and written first offering that swallowed me up, as I walked side by side with Sydney and Clyde, a partnership I can’t wait to read more of. 

The bond between woman and dog essential in making this work, and done to perfection. There is emotional depth and heartfelt feeling here, as we understand how broken and yet, how strong Sydney is, when faced with troubling events and even harder decisions.

Thoroughly immersive, Blood on the Tracks, is both a taut page-turning thriller and a heart-wrenching character study. If you love a good twisted mystery, characters that are darkly shaded by their past, and stories that may well haunt you, then I highly recommend you read this one.

BLOOD ON THE TRACKS
(Sydney Rose Parnell #1)
Barbara Nickless
Thomas & Mercer
9781503936867
Crime Fiction