Sydney's Look At The Dark Side

Bruce Von Stiers

There is a fantastic mystery series featuring Iraqi War vet Sydney Parnell. In the first few novels, Sydney was a railroad cop. In the latest edition to the series, she is a detective with the Major Crimes Unit of the Denver Police Department. The title of the newest book in the series is Gone To Darkness.

The author behind Sydney Parnell is Barbara Nickless. In her lifetime, Barbara has been an instructional designer, raptor rehabilitator and even a sword fighter at one point. But her passion for writing is what inspired Barbara to begin the Sydney Parnell series. Barbara has been the recipient of several nominations and awards, including the Daphne Du Maurier Award of Excellence.

Gone To Darkness begins with a prologue featuring some kind of sadist, going over things he was going to do. Then the book moves to Sydney, on her way to the Major Crimes Unit to begin her shift. But first she had to retrieve her badge from a friend who'd taken it the night before. That is what sets things up for the rest of the book.

Sydney finds her friend, a railroad cop who was checking out a report of a woman close to the railroad tracks. A set of circumstances leads Sydney to believe there is a body on the train that had stopped at the point near where the woman had been seen. Everyone is skeptical of Sydney's claim, especially her partner at the Major Crimes Unit, Leo Bandoni. But Sydney is undeterred and later proven right. There was a body, a man's, in a woman's dress, who'd been murdered.

The book takes the reader down a couple of paths. One of them is the murder investigation. The other is Sydney trying to find a DNA suspect match for a rape at a nursing home. The DNA search only serves as a distraction. At least at first. Meanwhile, the murder investigation takes a lot of twists and turns.

Thrown into the mix are an interesting cast of characters. There is Michael Cohen, Sydney's love interest. He was on the Major Crimes Unit and now is over in the Sex Crimes unit. There is Leo Bandoni, Sydney's overweight, overly obnoxious partner on the Major Crimes Unit. And then there is Clyde. He is a former military dog, having made Sydney his partner after being in Iraq. And finally, there is Sydney herself. She had been in a Mortuary Affairs unit of the Marines and, when back from Iraq, had become a railroad cop. And in this newest novel in the series, Sydney is now a rookie detective for the Denver PD.

In the first three novels in the series, Sydney becomes entrenched in murder investigations that took a toll on her personally, and on people surrounding her. This new novel is no different. In earlier novels, Sydney sees ghosts of marines who died in combat. And then of victims of the crimes she's investigating. The new novel only has a couple instances of the Sydney seeing ghosts, but they are just as jarring as in the earlier ones.

The novel takes the reader through a whole litany of crimes. There is stalking, kidnapping, rape, torture, murder and more than just a touch of sexual deviance. While there is a definite grittiness to the crimes, Barbara seems to write those scenes without being overly descriptive.

As with any good mystery, this one has a bunch of different angles. Just when Sydney seems to have a handle on the investigation, something new gets put in her path. A missing person, another dead body and several false leads tend to make for a very tense investigation.

I won't say a whole lot more about the novel. Except to say that I consider Gone To Darkness to be the best in the Sydney Parnell series so far. I thoroughly enjoyed it from the first page to the last. Sydney Parnell is fast becoming my favorite fictional detective.

Gone To Darkness is available at amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online and traditional book retailers.

If you'd like to learn more about Sydney Parnell and her creator, Barbara Nickless, visit

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© 2020 Bruce E Von Stiers