Addie & Evan's First Mystery

Bruce Von Stiers

I have been a fan of Barbara Nickless since her first crime novel, Blood On The Tracks. The main character in that novel was Railroad Police Special Agent Sidney Rose Parnell. Along with her K-9 partner, Clyde, Sidney solves a murder. Sidney went on to be the main character in subsequent novels.

This year finds Barbara Nickless having written a new crime novel. This time out, the location is Chicago instead of the Denver area. And there are two main characters in the novel, neither of which are Sidney Rose Parnell. The title of this new novel is At First Light.

The novel is being published by Thomas & Mercer. It has 397 pages along with an author bio and several pages of acclaim for the Sidney Rose Parnell novels by such noted novelists as Jeffrey Deaver, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Robert Dugoni.

At First Light opens with a police detective observing a body of a man that has been discovered in the Calumet River. This detective is Adrianne “Addie” Bisset. It appears that the man has been murdered in some kind of ritualistic manner. Addie knows she's going to need some outside help solving this murder. She brings in Dr. Evan Wilding, a semiotician and professor at the University of Chicago.

Evan is an expert in linguistics and paleography as well as semiotics. He has often been called upon by government agencies for his expertise in these fields. Evan is also a consultant to the Chicago police. His main conduit to the police is Addie, who has used Evan on cases before. In addition to his technical and academic expertise, Evan is often the recipient of curiosity due to his dwarfism.

The novel puts Addie and Evan together to figure out why the victim was killed. There are Viking overtures in the case that make it seem like there is a lot more going on than a simple murder. Runes, or markings, are found carved into bones at the murder scene. What do they mean and what do they have to do with the murder?

Other murders are discovered, another expert is brought in, who ends up being a rival to Evan, and the city of Chicago is beginning to wonder if there is a serial killer running loose.

There are several people who are interesting. There are characters that are neo-Nazi types, there's a group of Viking wannabes, a young man with secrets and police officials with not-so hidden agendas. There is Addie's detective partner, Patrick, and Evan's hawk, Ginny. Diana is Evan's grad assistant, who, in a far ago time, might have well been considered a Viking warrior. And there are a few other colorful characters strewn throughout the story.

While I am a fan of murder mysteries, and definitely a fan of Barbara Nickless, what really intrigued me about this new novel is the level of details. Although I know a bit of Viking lore and a tiny bit about runes, I had no idea of many details of either that were presented. Barbara did a whole bunch of research to try to provide details that were not only factual, but believable and intricate to the plot. She even lists several books and publications she used for reference in building the story in her Acknowledgements.

I was also intrigued by the many plot twists and turns. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, another angle was revealed. I was being led down a certain path, then there was an obstacle for a character to overcome or a different trail to follow. A suspect might not be a killer, or just not the killer Addie and Evan are looking for.

Even though I really enjoyed the previous novels from Barbara Nickless, At First Light is my favorite by far. The novel is a very solid murder mystery and the plot elements of Viking lore and runes were both entertaining and informative.

At First Light was released a few weeks ago. It is available on amazon, at Barnes & Noble and other online and in person book outlets.

If you are interested in more about At First Light and Barbara Nickless, visit


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