Dead Stop by Barbara Nickless

Author: Barbara Nickless
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Series: Sydney Rose Parnell #2
Format: Paperback, 398 pages
Genre: Murder Mystery

Back Cover Blurb

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.

What I Thought

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.

Baggage that makes Sydney while not totally unique certainly different. Having done a couple of tours of Afghanistan she’s seen death on a scale we can only imagine. Working in Mortuary Affairs Sydney know all too well what the true horror of war looks like. From the broken, twisted remains of soldiers blown apart by an IED, to collecting, identifying, and carefully piecing together her fellow soldier, bit by bit, by bit. The weight of the dead with her even after she returns to the US and back into civilian life, to work as a Special Agent for the DPC railway as a cop and dog handler.

In this her second book, Nickless drops Sydney back into the thick of things when answering the call out to an apparent suicide, a woman standing on the tracks, is hit by a train unable to stop in time. But it’s soon clear to all that this is no ordinary suicide, when Sydney, her four-legged partner, Clyde, and her 2 legged partner in crime, Detective Cohen of the Denver Major Crimes Squad, connect the death of the woman on the tracks, to that of a trio of murders—what turns out to be the woman’s husband and two sons. When it comes to light that the woman’s daughter is missing and, might have been in the car with her just before she died, Sydney, plagued by the loss of another child, Malik, is determined to find and save the young 8 year old.

And so, we’re off on the hunt and as the layers are peeled away, and the breadcrumbs followed, Sydney starts to connect a series of seemingly random facts and events that slowly lead her to the heart of the truth, to why the woman and her family were murdered. Events that happened years earlier setting in motion a chain of events.

Let me say I ate this second helping of Sydney’s story up in a couple of intense reading sessions, because I simply could not put the book down. Nickless kept me page turning, the tension emanating off the page, palpable. The stakes are high, but having already read book one, I knew our flawed hero was just the right person to doggedly (yes, pun intended) find the young girl, Lucy, and bring her to safety. But not before we’re put through the meat grinder and turmoil of emotion and angst.

Nickless certainly knows her characters, and how to give us depth and emotion with just the briefest of description. Her easy to read prose flow, and the story is so absorbing you’ll find yourself at 2 am before you realise what she’s done. Sydney and Clyde are high up there on my list of favourite characters of all-time, while these stories by Nickless are some of the best you’re ever likely to read.

I not only highly recommend Dead Stop, but all the Sydney Rose Parnell series.

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