Publicist Wiley Saichek gifted me with the mystery/thriller Ambush by Barbara Nickless via Amazon. I had not read the previous two books in this series, but I read a Goodreads review that assured me that this book can stand alone. It resolves a major ongoing issue in the female protagonist's life that relates to her military service in the Iraq War, and contains all the background necessary for understanding it.
I was interested in the fact that protagonist Sydney Rose Parnell is a Marine. I'm pretty sure that I'd never previously read a novel about a female Marine. I believed that she would definitely be a strong female protagonist. I was also intrigued by Sydney going to Mexico to find an Iraqi child in this book.
Regular readers of this blog will notice that the protagonist of the last book I read was also named Sydney. This could be considered a coincidence, but it could also be possible that what was previously an unusual name for a woman is becoming more popular.
The first person perspective of Sydney Parnell is a very intimate one. We are exposed to her doubts and fears, but she never hesitates to act quickly when it's called for. Being a Marine calls for courage. I have always believed that courage isn't really about never being afraid. It's about overcoming those fears. When I first started reading Ambush, I questioned the risks that Sydney took. Yet over the course of the narrative, I recognized that she was smart, resourceful and very well trained. I particularly liked her alternate version of the Marine by-word, Semper Gumby , which Sydney translated as "always flexible". Flexibility allows for quick improvisation of a new plan when the old one isn't working. It increases the odds of surviving dangerous situations.
Sydney is no longer in the Marines. She is now a railroad detective. Yet she has a K9 partner in her investigations who is military trained. His name is Clyde, and he is a very good dog. Sydney and Clyde work well together, and have a great bond of affection between them. I enjoyed this aspect of the book.
Ambush isn't a romance, but there is a romantic relationship in this book that I considered emotionally intense. I have loved some romance novels because they had great characters, but none have moved me to tears. I cried when I read about a certain relationship in Ambush. I found it heart rending. This testifies to the power of Barbara Nickless' writing. For me, this was a two handkerchief book when it came to the romance.
The case that began with a traumatic experience for Sydney that took place in Iraq was difficult to resolve, and involved a great many murders perpetrated in Iraq, Mexico and the U.S. All the characters were well developed including the individual who was behind all the killings. I was impressed by the characterization, and thought that the resolution was satisfying. I recommend Ambush and its author to fans of mysteries and thrillers.