Sydney's Dead Stop

Bruce Von Stiers

About a year ago I reviewed the novel Blood On The Tracks by Barbara Nickless. This debut mystery novel featured railroad cop Sydney Parnell. The conclusion of that novel left a few things open so I was sure that there would be another Sydney Parnell mystery. I wasn't wrong. This year finds Sydney in a whole new mystery.

The title of the new mystery is Dead Stop. Like the previous novel, this one was published by Thomas & Mercer, which is part of the Amazon family.

Sydney Parnell is a Special Agent for the Denver Pacific Continental railroad. She is also a veteran, have been in the Marine Corp, serving in Iraq. Her unit worked with the dead, preparing them for their journey home. Before returning home Sydney inherits a new partner. That partner is Clyde, a bomb sniffing German Shepherd. Once she is home and becomes a railroad cop, Sydney continues to have Clyde as her partner. Another thing that Sydney brought back with her from Iraq is PTSD. There are certain plot elements in the novel that deal with this. One of those elements is that Sydney sometimes sees ghosts of dead people she's encountered.

At the start of this story, Sydney and Clyde are called to the scene of a railroad accident. A woman was on a set of railroad tracks and had been hit by a train. Was it a suicide or something else? At the same time, Sydney's sort of boyfriend, Denver homicide detective Mike Cohen, catches a multiple homicide. Two boys are dead, their father is in critical condition and the mother and young daughter are missing.

The reader finds out that the woman on the tracks is the missing mother and that the family is tied directly to the head of the railroad that Sydney works for. But where is the little girl and what sinister thing has befallen that family?

As with the first novel featuring Sydney, there are plot threads that at first might seem random, yet intertwine. These threads include elements of coercion, intimidation, blackmail, extortion, love, lust and revenge. The more that Sydney delves into things, the more dangerous and complex the story becomes.

In between investigating the death of the woman and helping try to find the missing little girl, Sydney also has to deal with being in therapy. And seeing ghosts of people that died in the last major case she was involved with. You would have to have read the first novel to fully grasp the significance of those particular ghosts that Sydney thinks she sees. The reader is also treated to excerpts from a personal journal the Sydney keeps.

Along with the psychological drama in the novel, there is also plenty of action. There are people being shot at, bombs being exploded and bad people trying to hurt others.

The twists and turns in this novel are first-rate. The reader is allowed to figure out the killer yet the motivation is not automatically given to you. And just when I thought that I had it all deciphered, the author threw a couple of more twists into the story.

Dead Stop is an excellent mystery novel. There is plenty of action and psychological drama to go along with the intrigue that makes up the story. Barbara Nickless has indeed brought forth a worthy heroine in Sydney Parnell. This was a terrific follow up to the first novel. I hope that the author continues to take the reader along with Sydney and Clyde as they investigate skullduggery, mystery and murder.

You can get a copy of Dead Stop from amazon, Barnes & Noble or other major online and traditional book retailers.

To learn more about Dead Stop and its author, Barbara Nickless, visit the author's official web site at



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© 2017 Bruce E Von Stiers