Cover Image: Play of Shadows

Play of Shadows

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Play of Shadows by Barbara Nickless
Dr. Evan Wilding #3

A’maze’ing, immersive, interesting, and intellectually stimulating ~ Great addition to the series!

What I liked: all of it really but specifically…
* Evan Wilding: professor at the University of Chicago in semiotics, linguistics, and paleography; consultant to police, height challenged – refers to himself as a dwarf, brilliant, older brother to River, likes animals, tenacious, puzzle solver, intriguing
* River Wilding: archaeologist, explorer, possibly a spy, a year younger than Evan, one and a half feet taller than his brother, always on the move, supportive, capable, leaps into the fray, a doer, interesting and intriguing, rather taken with Evan’s assistant Diana, in town to help Evan
* Diana: Evan’s assistant, specialized in another area of ancient civilizations and languages, ax thrower, athlete, like a sister to Evan, rather taken with River
* Addison “Addie” Bissett: homicide detective, Evan’s friend, works with Evan on some cases, strong, determined, caring, dedicated, is at a crossroads in her life with decisions to make
* Detective McBrady: Addie’s work partner and a father figure at times, protective, wise, grounded
* Evan’s animals: Perro the Welsh Corgi that was once Diana’s and Ginny the hawk that Evan flies in the park
* The brothers together, their comradery, the way they communicate and care for one another, the great team they make when working together
* The plot, pacing, setting, and writing with twists, turns, and surprises – really drew me in and made me care
* The mysteries and how they were resolved through police procedure and the unlocking of clues based in ancient symbols
* That there was hope at the end a future book to look forward to

What I didn’t like:
* Who and what I was meant not to like
* Thinking about how twisted some people are and how they impact those around them – for good or for evil

Did I enjoy this book? Yes
Would I read more in this series? Definitely!

Thank you to Thomas & Mercer for the ARC – This is my honest review.

5 Stars

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Greek myths & murder? I’m here for it. I actually think this book was my favorite in the series. I liked how the mythology was interwoven throughout, and that chapters highlighted different perspectives of the characters. Would highly recommend for those who love twisty murder mysteries, minotaurs, or characters you fall in love with

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Dr. Evan Wilding receives a letter left on his doorstep inviting him and his brother River to solve a riddle before a sacrifice will be made. Later on that same night a man is found murdered in the streets in front of a Play House featuring the myth of the Greek Minotaur in Crete. The murdered man bares the same ancient symbols on his body that were written on the riddle left on Evan’s doorstep. Witnesses describe the murderer as half-man half-beast who ripped the man almost in half and left a vicious bite on his neck. The Wilding brothers now have a serial killer on their hands and believe the killer is mimicking the myth. Will they solve the riddle before there are 14 human more people murdered as they were in the Greek Myth.

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This third Evan Wilding book packs quite the punch.

Dr Evan Wilding and his brother River are just catching up after quite a long time apart, when a cryptic letter is left for them. Between them, they have some mad skills and talents when it comes to the ancient world, so this should be a piece of cake for them, right? Wrong. And when Addie, Evan's police officer friend, comes across a body who has mysterious symbols on him, things get even more interesting.

This was a high energy thriller. Evan, River and Addie are on the trail of a murderer and there are also a few people associated with the body who are missing, which makes trying to solve the case even more urgent. Evan's associate at the University, Diana, finds drawn to River, complicating things a little bit, however, Evan has his own romantic dilemma to solve. Myths and legends come into play and it makes the book even better, in my opinion. I don't understand quite a bit of it but it doesn't matter.

So much going on in this book! And I enjoyed it all :) Looking forward to the next instalment!

5 stars from me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer.

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I loved the premise and background of this book. I thought the mythical and semiotic elements were well integrated a tight murder mystery.

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I didn’t realize that this was a third in the series so I am sure that I am missing quite a bit of back story and character development. This one just didn’t quite grab my attention, I found myself a bit lost and having to go back a few pages to see if I missed something. Those that have read the series may really like it, it just wasn’t for me. Thanks to Netgalley for the chance to read and review this book.

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I need series to be better marked because I just do not have the time to start series. I know it’s not required but it’s a personal thing that I need to read them all in order and I simply cannot feasibly do so.

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Review – Play of Shadows (Dr. Evan Wilding Book 3) by Barbara Nickless, Published by Thomas & Mercer Publication Date: 11/14/2023

If you imagine that Indiana Jones’ brother (Raiders of the Lost Ark) is Lord Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones) and the two are handsome professorial crime fighters with a taste for single malt scotch, you can aptly describe the protagonists in this serial murder book. Dr. Evan Wilding is a renown semiotician, or an expert in the use and meaning of symbols; his younger and taller brother is a well-travelled archeologist. The two are drawn into a good v. evil game of suspense and murder based on the Greek Myth of Minos & The Minotaur.

This is the third book in Nickless’ Dr. Evan Wilding books and the first that I have read. I found it easy to read as a stand-alone. Right from the start, the author captivated me with rich characters and a solidly drafted plot line. The story was a labyrinth of gripping occurrences; some turns revealed clues and others led to dismal and dangerous things. The pace was fast and the suspense never lagged. I loved the ending – definitely not what I had expected! I am so looking forward to picking up the other two books in the series. You really must add this to your ‘to be read’ pile.

I award this book a rating of 4 Stars.

Rating: 4 Stars

p.s. I am grateful to the publisher for allowing me the opportunity to read this Advanced Readers Copy. The opinions expressed in this unpaid book review are solely mine.

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The Windy City on a dark, stormy night.

And if you've been, you know just how treacherous that can be. Rain storms whip around the corner and set your footing off balance. Head down with vision obscured is not the position you want to be in. Danger advances.

A bundled-up stranger is observed placing an envelope in the doorway of Professor Evan Wilding's home off campus from the University of Chicago. Though short in stature at 4 foot 5 inches, Evan is big on brains. He's an Oxford educated Englishman with degrees as long as your arm. His brother, River, is a tall head archaeologist just returning from a dig in Istanbul. Both brothers open the envelope and observe its contents. A Cretan coin slides out and the words: "Let the games begin."

Our guys are always up for a challenge and this one will certainly test them. The identity of the stranger has been made. His game is short-lived after he is found dead in a winding alley behind a theater portraying a play entitled The Minotaur. This dead man has a glyph on his forehead. In addition, his daughter is missing.

Time to bring in Detective Addie Bisset of the Chicago PD. She and her partner, Detective Patrick McBrody, will try to connect the dots here with references to the flesh-eating monster of Crete involving an intricate maze. River will also have an encounter with "Hoodie Man" and wind up in the soupy greenness of the Chicago River. (Antibiotics on the ready)

Play of Shadows reads perfectly as a standalone. Barbara Nickless sees to that. She fills in the gaps and gets the reader off to a fast start. You may want to check out the other books in this fine series. It's so worth it. Nickless includes sketches and word maps to help us work our way through this mystery maze. It's a fun and challenging read with some deadly consequences. Bravo, Barbara Nickless, as always. Just bravo.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Thomas & Mercer and to the talented Barbara Nickless for the opportunity.

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I LOVED At First Light, but Dark of Night was a bit of a slog for me, so I went in to Play of Shadows with cautious expectations. These books remind me a lot of the Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child: that excellent blend of mystery, history, mythology, and the unknown. Dr. Evan Wilding is such a unique main character. The writing is excellent, and the story grabbed me from the beginning and didn't let go!

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When picking this up, I did not realize that it was a third book in a series, but like others, this can be read by itself. I really enjoyed the mythological aspects of this book as that that’s what actually really intrigued me from the beginning and why I picked it up. I really enjoyed the writing style of Barbara Nickless I found the pacing to be just to my liking, and I definitely will be going back and picking up the first two within the next month!! Overall will be reading her again and can’t wait to pick up the first two

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An intriguing mash up of mythology and murder that will be most appreciated by those who have read the earlier books in the series. I wanted like this (mythology! murder!) but I felt very much at sea. Thanks to netgalley for the ARC. Over to others.

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Fantastic! Nickless pulls out all the stops with this one. Featuring a monstrous killer, a mythological puzzle, and labyrinths both literal and figurative, Play of Shadows is a high-octane, modern-day Greek tragedy. Forensic semiotician Dr. Evan Wilding, his archeologist brother River, and Chicago police detective Addie Bissett find themselves drawn into the dark recesses of a hidden evil with very personal stakes. Like its predecessors At First Light and Dark of Night, Play of Shadows is mystery fiction at its best. A must read.

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Barbara Nickless has once again proven why she is a force to be reckoned with in the mystery and thriller genres with her latest book, Play of Shadows, an electrifying continuation of the Evan Wilding series that doesn’t disappoint!
This time, Nickless has given us a healthy dose of Greek mythology mixed with a heap of present-day psychological thriller and a dash of the always-fascinating semiotics to create a gripping and intricately plotted mystery. Of course, Evan and Addie are back on the hunt, but we finally get real page time with the elusive River as well!
Play of Shadows was a labyrinthine puzzle of secrets that constantly challenged my assumptions, surprised me with unexpected twists, and hooked me from start to finish. Long story short, Nickless’s impeccable storytelling, authentic characters, and heart-pounding suspense make this a must-read. Highly recommended!

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Another winner in a unique series

Barbara Nickless' Dr. Evan Wilding series continues in this wonderfully written, carefully crafted installment that takes us to a stormy summer in Chicago and plunges us into a world of myth and murder.

As with the previous books in the series homicide detective Addie Bisset relies on Evan -- her best friend and professor of semiotics, a noted expert on signs and symbols -- when things get weird. Once again we have just the right balance between the twists and turns of Addie's police investigation and Evan's more academic efforts, this time involving Greek mythology and ancient Cretan scripts, as they try to unravel the killer's message and motivation.

Where this book really shines for me is in the characters and their relationships and interactions. Whether peripheral or central to the story, whether animal or human, Nickless' characters are always well-drawn and very real. In addition to old friends from previous books -- Addie and her cop partner Patrick, Evan and his research assistant Diana -- here we finally get to meet Evan's brother, River, in the flesh. And now it feels like the team is complete.

Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for an advance review copy of this book. The scheduled release date is November 14, 2023.

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Dr. Evan Wilding is back for his third adventure, this time searching for a killer who styles himself “The Minotaur” and is using codes related to the Ariadne/King Minos/Minotaur myth. His brother, River, is in town from his archeological exploits to lend an assist as is his erstwhile research assistant. What is the Minotaur after and why?

This is a great series of thrillers from Nickless who also wrote the very enjoyable Sydney Rose Parnell railroad detective series (I hope there will be more of those, too.) Wilding is a truly fascinating main character and I love his study of codes and language. His will-they-or-won’t-they romance with the beautiful police detective is resolved here (I’m glad that didn’t drag out forever and it will be interesting to see where this take Wilding in future novels) and overall this is another fine entry in this series. Looking forward to more!

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I really enjoyed Nickless' skillful synthesis of a classic mythological tale with a modern-day crime thriller. The pace moves incredibly fast, and could easily be devoured in a day. Wilding was a fun protagonist, very in the vein of Richard Castle or Patrick Jane, a smooth-talking foil to our straight-laced detective. I liked finally getting the romantic payoff between the two as well. I was also impressed by Nickless' thoughtful and sensitive portrait of a protagonist who is a Little Person.

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3.5 star

Credit is deserved by author for rooting psyche of a modern day criminal into fantasy of a mythological half-man, half-beast creature, reflecting the duality within us all. Introducing riddles in form of maze, reflecting the intricate passages of the human mind. A protagonist who is a dwarf, rejected by his father & is aware of the daily life challenges due to his stature, but nowhere shies away to accept his reality, reflecting, that determination can lead us out of the darkest mazes.

Prologue, gives just enough to keep reader wondering on what exactly is the book about. There are continuous references to Greek myths and ancient scripts, but again credit is due, as all concepts related to Hieroglyphics and mythology is explained very well for the layman reader. Liked the writing style and command on language. Even with so many jargons, its a fast paced story with multiple investigation theories, suspects and a growing tension which is uncomfortable in a good way.

'Seeing a sparrow meant that secrets would soon be brought to light', and surely they do. Here is where I felt the story got bit weak. I feel the mystery revelation could not live up to the hype promised by the blurb. The mysterious letter with the challenging riddle, Cretan coin (even on cover page), various symbols, slipped through when knot was tied on the whodunnit part of the mystery.

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This is the third book in a series that has surprisingly caught and kept my interest. The setting is in Chicago. We have the female MC (Addie), a Homicide Detective who happens to be best friends and sometimes a working partner to Dr. Evan Wilding, who is a renowned linguistic expert. This duo has worked together on several cases and they are a pleasure to follow.

This book has a surprise visit from Evan's younger brother Dr. River Wilding, an "Indiana Jones" type of archeologist who is famous in his own right. The three of them find themselves right in the middle of a murder case that immediately points to the Drs. Wilding as targets.

As usual, the action begins and is fast paced and non stop. I really liked seeing the brothers together, the relationship that they have was heart warming. The two have obviously had only each other to count on as they grew up and it was wonderful to see River's love and respect for his older brother. He didn't see Evan as lesser and actually does wonders to help him build up his confidence.

This book finally takes those final steps into furthering the relationship between Addie and Evan. In the previous books, we knew that Evan had feelings for her, but to his mind, Addie only had "friendship" feelings for him. We actually see a response from her to this possibility. Is she interested? You'll have to read the book to find out. :)

This was another great and interesting story. A bit implausible, but I was willing to overlook a few things because the overall story kept me intrigued.

Thank you to Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review this ARC. The opinions above are mine and mine alone.

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I feel like I’m the outlier here, but this book was not for me. I really wanted to like it but I couldn’t get into the story, I kept feeling like I was missing something. I do think that this book will be a hit for some people, but sadly not me.

I do want to extend my thanks to the publisher and netgalley for this e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

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