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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Book Review: At First Light (Dr. Evan Wilding 1) by Barbara Nickless

At First Light (Dr. Evan Wilding 1)
by Barbara Nickless
December 1, 2021
Publisher: Thomas and Mercer
395 pages
ISBN: 9781542026413
Ritual murder. Archaic clues. A visionary killer. In this heart-stopping novel by the Wall Street Journal and Amazon Charts bestselling author of the Sydney Rose Parnell series, words can kill.

On the muddy banks of the Calumet River, a body has been found posed next to a series of mysterious glyphs and bearing wounds from a ritualistic slaying. Chicago detective Addie Bisset knows only one man who can decipher the message left by the killer: her friend Dr. Evan Wilding. A brilliant forensic semiotician, Evan decodes the etchings as Viking Age runes. They suggest either human sacrifice or righteous punishment. But to what god? And for what sins?

Only one thing is clear from the disturbing runic riddles: there are more victims to come.

As Evan races to determine the identity of the Viking Poet, he and Addie uncover the killer’s most terrifying secret yet: the motive. This startling discovery puts Evan’s life in mortal danger, and verse by ancient verse, time is running out.

Detective Addie Bisset and her partner, along with other police, are on the banks of the Calumet River watching as the forensics team is working over a body posed and covered in glyphs. All appearances say it was a ritualistic killing. Addie knows that this is one of the weird ones, something her friend, forensic semiotician Dr. Evan Wilding, might be able to help solve. After working to interpret the runes left on the body and on animal bones found with it, Evan knows he must solve who the Viking Poet (his name for the serial killer) is. It is not long before Evan finds his life in danger, maybe as one of the future victims.

Interestingly, I think the author writing Evan as an English dwarf, brilliant, and working at the local university means she might be a fan of Tolkien and even possibly Games of Thrones. That she might have used the actor, Peter Dinklage, who played Tyrion Lannister in GOT, as inspiration for Evan. 

Ms. Nickless has admitted to researching Vikings, runes, material on Norse deities, customs, and history. She has written the story in a way that keeps the regular reader engaged in the story, and without it reading like a history lesson or info dump. But with all the history, understanding of medieval poets and aga poetry, and rune knowledge, some fans of mystery, thriller, and horror may not like this, but I did. I am looking forward to the second book in the series.

I gave At First Light (Dr, Evan Wilding 1) 4 sheep.

Reviewed by Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:
#1 Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Barbara Nickless promised her mother she’d be a novelist when she grew up. What could be safer than sitting at a desk all day? But a sense of adventure led her astray for a few decades. Now an award-winning author and creative writing instructor, she spends her free time snowshoeing, caving and hiking the Colorado Rockies. Connect with her at

Barbara's Books
At First Light (The Sparrow series Book 1 coming December 2021)
Sydney Parnell Series (in order)
Blood on the Tracks
Dead Stop
Gone to Darkness

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