Tag: Thomas & Mercer

Ambush by Barbara Nickless

Book Summary

Railway cop and former Marine Sydney Parnell is on the hunt. So is a killer she knows only as the Alpha. They’re in a race to find Malik, an eleven-year-old Iraqi boy with secrets to guard. Sydney wants to help him. The Alpha wants him dead.

From the dark alleys of Mexico City to the mean streets of Denver, Sydney and her K9 partner, Clyde, use their wits and determination to chase down the ruthless killer. But when their path collides with his, Sydney realizes just how far-reaching and sinister the Alpha’s past is. And how far he’s willing to go to save his secrets.

This series has gone from “OMG this is good,” with book one, Blood on the Tracks, to “WOW, what the hell,” in book two, Dead Stop, to “holy shit!” with Ambush, book 3 in this outstanding dark crime series of reads. Barbara Nickless came out of nowhere onto my radar last year and is now one of my top 5 go-to authors. Her writing puts her at number two in my all-time favourite authors.

Yes, she is that good! It’s not just her story telling skills, and her ability to weave several connecting threads throughout her work, but the depth she’s given to her MC, Sydney, the sheer intimacy we feel on both a physical, emotional, and mental level. It’s as if we’re sat with her in a bar supping a beer, with Clyde her K9 partner there, at our feet, as she tells you about the case in hand. And that isn’t to say her other characters miss out, they don’t. From the secondary and supporting cast, right on through to the shadowy figures pulling the strings. Everyone is nuanced in many shades of grey, with those we think of as bad having their own story to tell.

Nickless is faultless in setting a gripping scene and creating atmosphere, along with dealing us a real sense of dread, with wire-taut tension in the fight scene, through to using pacing to full effect in stringing out our nerves to the limit, it will make your skin prickle.

Truly, this gifted combination of exemplary storytelling will have you flicking pages, trying to keep up with Sydney and her K9 partner, Clyde, as she pieces together odd facts, with seemingly random pieces of information, all the while hunting down who’s behind the shadows hiding in dark alleys. And believe me, it’s never who you think it is.

We are played as many times as Sydney is, as she sifts the shifting sands of memories that haunt her from her time in Afghanistan, through to the current murder of fellow marine, Kane, and his connection to what happened in Sydney’s past. It all ties in by the end that will leave you strung out with frayed nerves but also, with a sense of hope. And, of course, with a promise that Sydney and Clyde are not done … not done by a long shot.

If you like high octane pacing, gritty action, dark alleys, fist-fights, and a strong female lead who refuses to give in, and refuses to give up, then I can highly recommend this whole series and especially, Ambush.

Smart, highly original, and brutally authentic!

Sydney Rose Parnell #3
Barbara Nickless
Thomas & Mercer, 2019
Paperback, 364 pages
Crime | Mystery | Suspense

Dead Stop by Barbara Nickless

Book Summary

It’s been five months since Special Agent Sydney Parnell survived a violent confrontation with a gang of brutal thugs, an encounter that left her physically and emotionally scarred. Deep down, Sydney fears she isn’t ready for another investigation. But when a woman is murdered on the train tracks and a child goes missing, she knows she’s the only one who can lead the hunt for the killer. While Denver police and the FBI chase down blind alleys, Sydney focuses on a single cryptic clue left behind at the crime scene—one that will send her down a path of greed, violence, and long-ago love.

With Denver beset by a series of monsoon like thunderstorms that threaten to flood the city, Sydney and her K9 partner, Clyde, must wade through a murky trail of murder that stretches back thirty years—all to rescue a child…and catch a killer with a long memory and an insatiable appetite for destruction.

DEAD STOP by Barbara Nickless is one hell of a twisted read full of taut drama, nail-biting tension, with a compelling plot that utterly blindsided me. But what sets this book apart from other murder-mysteries I’ve read of late, is it’s MC. Sydney Rose Parnell is the kind of character you not only root for the entire time, but is someone you can identify with and feel an affinity for because of her past … because of the baggage she carries.

Read More

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.

(Sydney Rose Parnell #1)
Barbara Nickless
Thomas & Mercer
Crime Fiction