Blood on the Tracks: Barbara Nickless
Tucker Rhodes has a past that he would like to keep hidden and an event that happened in Iraq that if brought to light in the present would destroy many lives. Rhodes is scarred. His face and body badly burned having those that see him call him the Burned Man. When investigating a murder of a young woman named Elise, it leads back to him, as she is his fiancé. The story opens when we hear her voice begging him to come home and saying she will marry him no matter what. Scarred both physically and emotionally Rhodes finds himself in a darker place when Elise is found dead. Standing over her body does not help, as he is the one to find her. Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell, is brought in by the Denver Major Crimes Unit with her dog Clyde to help wit the investigation. Although attached to the Railroad and not really a crime investigator she takes chances, uses her intuitive skills to unravel a murder that might lead back to a unit in the army in Iraq. With the two detectives on the case Cohen and Parnell, both having different viewpoints regarding Rhodes and his guilt, the police for some reason want to move ahead with Rhodes and just might fail to find the real killer but there is much more as Sydney recalls what happened, the two men whose bodies she processed when working for a mortuary unit and a bomb that was ignited that took many lives. Just what happened there and why are so many willing hide the truth? What will happen if this comes out at trial? The more she investigates the more it leads in many other directions as Sydney contacts someone from the past who might lead her to identify a person on a photo with her late fiancé named Douglas. The picture allows her to realize that neither person is happy and that something else is going on as her contact tells her to move on and put it all behind her. Finding someone named Kane and wanting to learn more about a man called Sarge they go to his home, no one is there and they unlock more photos, papers and wonder just where Max Udell and his girlfriend Amy might be or if something happened to him too.
Elise is at the heart of what is happening and her good deeds might have gotten her killed as she tried to help so many and asked too many questions that might have triggered the killer to take action. But, did Rhodes kill her? Gangs on the rails and conspiracies that related to the past and one crime that might send more than just Sydney to prison or worse. Risking it all she continues to search, ask questions and investigate a murder that might lead her down a different path of her own. When the investigation takes on a deeper look and she gets closer to another member of the team, what she learns when reading the murder book will cost her a new relationship, trust and will change her perspective about someone close to her that she trusted. Learning that Rhodes confessed and that the case might not go any further finds her returning home with Clyde to be attacked by someone who wants it all to go away but why?
Sydney is smart yet frightened and Clyde is right there to understand her commands when a killer comes to take her out and when done the entire scene will surprise readers as information comes to light, she makes a deal with someone and the end result might cost more lives as she learns what Elise was doing, her goal to try and find who might have something to do with a little girl’s disappearance and how it all relates to Iraq.
Piecing the clues together and interviewing several people Sydney comes face to face with Sherri Kane and her husband. Both have their own agendas and Sherri shows signs of anger towards Sydney when she and Sherri’s husband Alfred search for someone named Sarge. The investigation takes them to his house but what they find is information but not Sarge or his girlfriend Amy. The clues mount up and Tucker confesses but something rings untrue. As Sydney digs deeper she arrives home to be attacked by a brutal killer and the end result takes her to her Grams house to be tended to. Nightmares, flashbacks, guilt and fear surround her as she meets Nik who has always been there for her and something will trigger off a memory and the end result will be more than just a pile of bodies going to the morgue.
At the start of each chapter after the prologue the author lets reader’s hear the voice of Sydney as she shares her thoughts from her journal. Each one refers back to the wars fought in Iraq, the incidents, what others including her superiors told her and the fact that some wars are not fought on the battlefield. Within Sydney, Rhodes, Nik, Gantry and many others the battle fought the horrors they felt they caused and the people they killed left them cold inside, frightened, filled with nightmares and trying to find reasons to justify their actions and move one. Secrets and lies become half-truths and truths become lies as Sydney fights to find out the truth behind Elise’s death and when she does it will change it all for her forever.
Who killed Elise? Who killed both Jasmine and Thomas Brown? How does this relate to the Royer Boys who terrorize the town? What happens when Sydney, Nik and those involved come to the tracks for a final ride? Just whose blood will be spilled and smeared all of the tracks? What really happened to Jasmine? What memories haunt her as she pieces the past into the present? Nik who is after the gang and wants to protect his son but can he? Danger is all around and the final scene will sent chills down you spine as the bodies pile up, some are uncovered and Sydney risks her life to safe someone else but at what expense? One little girl’s words would set the entire scene in motion as Sydney finally realizes a harsh reality and a lie becomes more than just an untruth.
An ending that is quite compelling as one man has to decide his fate and where he wants to go next as Sydney faces her demeans, her past and has to decide if she can put aside or tuck away what really happened in Iraq or Habbaniyah. Did they take a bad situation and make it worse or did they do what had to be done? You the reader decide who is innocent, who just got in the way and who caused all of the spilled Blood on the Tracks. Author Barbara Nickless takes us to the battlefield, inside the minds of many of the characters and leads each one of us to form our own conclusion: Was Sydney guilty of the crimes she felt she committed? Will the nightmares ever stop? Will she ever be whole? What’s next for her?
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine