Castle Danger by Chris Norbury

Castle Danger

Castle Danger by Chris Norbury, 296 pages, Booklocker.com, Inc., April 26th 2016, Genre: Psychological Thriller. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Castle Danger is a suspenseful, engaging read. Taking place in northwest Minnesota in a frightful winter, the setting comes alive, menacing and life-threatening to any who lack the foresight and skills to survive. People who’ve been kicked in the teeth and were able to get back up again would call such a place home with pride. The winter’s not easy, but what in life ever is? It’s when things aren’t easy that one’s character and mettle are tested.

No good deed goes unpunished and this is doubly true for our protagonist, Matt. A quiet man, he’d rather watch, learn, and plan than chit-chat. Possessed of a strong personal code, Matt is on the run because he did the right thing against the wrong people. Try as he might to hide from the world, he happens upon a man who will die without his help. Naturally, Matt chooses to do the right thing. It costs him and nearly kills him. Luckily, he passes out in front of The Halcyon, a restaurant owned by Allyson Clifford. Matt awakens the next day to discover Allyson has nursed him back from death’s door. Since her chef has skipped out on her, she offers Matt the job as her cook. Matt is a man of mystery, refusing to reveal much about himself. He is reluctant to take up her offer, but given the situation with the weather and the fact she really seems to need a cook, he repays her kindness by agreeing to stay on until she can find a full time replacement. Meanwhile, we learn that a hired killer is after Matt and gaining clues where he can find his prey. Just as we think Matt is the fascinating one with all the deep, dark secrets, it turns out Allyson has a few of her own. Her “husband” has come to town and wants her and his son back…or else.

Most of the characters were believable, interesting, and relatable. None were saints, and their crimes were understandable. Matt and Allyson were likable and the attraction between them realistic. The antagonist tried so hard to convince everyone he was really the good guy but it was obvious he didn’t believe it himself. I felt the antagonist would’ve been more enjoyable if he truly believed he was the wronged hero in his own tale. Nevertheless, the interplay and struggles between various characters kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next and how things would turn out. Well-paced with an interesting plot, Castle Danger kept me on the edge of my seat.

I’d recommend Castle Danger to fans of thrillers and suspense.

You can find it at Castle Danger.

Book Description:

***2017 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree***

***2017 Honorable Mention, Genre Fiction, Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards***

Fugitive Matt Lanier, unjustly accused of a violent crime, has been hiding in the northeastern Minnesota wilderness for nine months. The law wants him in jail. His enemies want him dead. He simply wants to survive the most brutal winter in decades.

After rescuing an injured trapper, Matt is forced to leave his primitive encampment. He undertakes a Herculean trek through a blizzard to Castle Danger, a small town on the rugged North Shore of Lake Superior. There he’s saved from near death by Allyson Clifford, a shrewd and beautiful restaurant owner with secrets of her own. Despite wanting to move on in order to evade his pursuers, Matt helps Allyson weather a business crisis as repayment for her benevolence.

Then Allyson’s estranged husband, Donnie Vossler, shows up intent on reclaiming their 8-year-old son, Josh. Caught in the middle of the custody battle, Matt learns about Allyson and Vossler’s criminal past life together and is torn between self-preservation and his growing feelings for Allyson and Josh.

Matt’s recent past has left him with little hope for the future, so when Vossler resorts to sabotage, kidnapping, and attempted murder to capture his son, Matt’s integrity, honor, and survival instincts are put to the ultimate test just as a hit man hired by his enemies closes in for the kill.

Review

Castle Danger is that one manuscript in a thousand that is waiting to become a bestseller–yet breaks new ground in doing so. Nonstop suspense, real characters, and a vivid setting in northern Minnesota make Chris Norbury’s work stand out from the rest.Castle Danger’s readership potential is as far-reaching as Lake Superior, with appeal for both men and women and fans of suspense, crime, romance and redemption stories. It is the best manuscript I’ve seen in a long time.”- Lauren O’Neil, Sharp Eye Edits

From the Author

Castle Danger is my debut novel. It started as a sequel to an earlier unpublished novel. I’m a born-and-raised Minnesotan (except for a few early childhood years in Wisconsin) and love the state and its people. The prequel and sequel to Castle Danger will also involve primarily Minnesota characters and locales.

Weather will always be a character in my novels set in Minnesota because we have some of the most extreme weather on the planet. I defy you to name another region on earth that has a temperature range of approximately 175 degrees (as cold as -66 F up to about +110 F!).

Weather of all sorts can disrupt plans, affect outcomes, and be downright dangerous, even lethal. Think tornadoes, floods, lightning strikes, paralyzing blizzards (three feet of snow in two days … at Halloween!), and prolonged cold snaps (weeks at a time where high temperatures don’t get above 0 degrees Fahrenheit).

Instead of writing about “glamorous” main characters who are spies, government agents, ex-Navy Seals, or brilliant trial lawyers or detectives, I prefer writing about more or less ordinary people with normal occupations who I can insert into extraordinary situations and have them fight their way through without the assistance of super “powers,” special training, or unlimited resources and manpower.

At heart, my novels will explore one or more universal character trait found in all people and put a character’s moral fortitude to the test. For instance, in Castle Danger, protagonist Matt Lanier will have his integrity and survival instincts challenged when he’s put into a life-or-death situation. Thanks for your interest and I hope you enjoy reading Castle Danger.

Author Biography

Chris Norbury is a freelance writer and novelist. He independently published his first novel, “Castle Danger,” in April 2016. In June of 2017, “Castle Danger” was awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion from indieBRAG.com. In October of 2017, “Castle Danger” received an Honorable Mention-Genre Fiction- Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

Chris is working on the prequel to “Castle Danger,” whose working title is “Straight River.” A sequel to “Castle Danger” is in the planning stages. He has also been a freelance writer since 2014. His areas of expertise include finance, investing, economics, politics, golf, wine, and current events.

His essay on wilderness canoeing, “Solo Challenge,” was published in the Spring 2014 issue of the Boundary Waters Journal. A second article, titled “Soloing for Solitude,” appears in the Spring 2016 issue of the BWJ.

He is a contributing editor to brokerage-review.com and writes weekly op-ed articles for thinkingoutsidetheboxe.com.

Chris is a long-time volunteer Big Brother (since 2000) and will dedicate a percentage of all sales of his novels to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota. Even if you do not buy his book(s), please consider volunteering for one of the best mentoring programs in the country and contact your local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

During golf season in Minnesota, Chris works on perfecting his golf game, an impossible dream but also an excellent excuse to get out of the office. He lives in southern Minnesota with his wife and golf clubs.

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A Life Removed by Jason Parent

A Life Removed by Jason Parent, 284 pages, Red Adept Publishing LLC, May 23rd 2017, Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Police Procedurals. Warning: Contains Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

I was drawn to this story as it takes place in Fall River, Massachusetts, location of the infamous Lizzie Borden murders. I was hoping there might be some connection  between the killings in this story and the ones before, but there weren’t. The story takes place there coincidentally.

There are three main point of view characters: Detectives and partners Marklin and Beaudette, and Officer Aaron Pimental. The chapters shift between these characters. It becomes clear by halfway in who is responsible for the murders, how they’re doing it, and why. The villain and his motives are similar to many killers with his modus operandi. What’s different about this novel is that it takes a supernatural turn, with the ritual killings actually imparting improvements to those who perform them. The remainder of the book focuses on Aaron Pimental’s struggle with the killer and his struggle within himself.

I enjoyed the scenes with the detectives far more than the scenes with Pimental. Their characters were more likable and relatable. Aaron isn’t grateful his girlfriend landed him his job, he’s resentful as it makes him feel like less of a man. He compromises the investigation by telling everyone while drunk at a party about what the police know about the murders, all to get to feel important and big. Aaron hates himself, believes he’s a weak failure, and has no self confidence. His one redeeming moment is undone later in the book when his darker nature overrides everything else.

People who are lost, injured, hurting, or low on self-esteem are targeted and easily led astray. Wicked people claim they’re leading their followers to righteousness and use perverted logic to keep them on board. But their schemes lead to death and suffering. Wicked men often go unpunished, free to move on and start the cycle over again. It’s a hopeless circle repeated in every town the killer travels to. Aaron Pimental was a victim of such a villain, in the end becoming a villain himself. This book takes the reader to dark places in the human psyche.

Overall, I liked this novel. If you’re looking for a hero or a happy ending, this is not the book for you. If you enjoy a mixture of horror, thriller, and police procedural, you’ll like A Life Removed.

You can find this book at A Life Removed.

Book Description:

Detectives Bruce Marklin and Jocelyn Beaudette have put plenty of criminals behind bars. But a new terror is stalking their city. The killer’s violent crimes are ritualistic but seemingly indiscriminate. As the death toll rises, the detectives must track a murderer without motive. The next kill could be anyone… maybe even one of their own.

Officer Aaron Pimental sees no hope for himself or humanity. His girlfriend is pulling away, and his best friend has found religion. When Aaron is thrust into the heart of the investigation, he must choose who he will become, the hero or the villain.

If Aaron doesn’t decide soon, the choice will be made for him.

About the Author:

In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Rhode Island.

In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge . . . as a civil litigator. When he wanted a change, he traded in his cheap suits for flip flops and designer stubble. The flops got repossessed the next day, and he’s back in the legal field . . . sorta. But that’s another story.

When he’s not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, and travel any place that will let him enter. And read and write, of course–he does that too sometimes.

Once Taken (A Riley Paige Mystery-Book 2) by Blake Pierce

Once Taken (A Riley Paige Mystery-Book 2) by Blake Pierce, 235 pages, February 14th 2016, Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Once Taken is a double story, both building on each other in a progressing character arc for FBI Special Agent Riley Paige. I was engaged from start to finish. When one plot resolved, the other had already captivated me. The heart of this book is its main character, Riley Paige, and the unfolding exploration of her darker side.

Riley is divorced from Ryan, a self-important big-time lawyer. She has a teenage, rebellious daughter named April. And she’s haunted by the idea that her serial killing tormentor and nemesis, Peterson, may have survived their last encounter. She has several years under her belt and when Lucy Vargas, the new kid on the block, is assigned to the next case alongside her, she worries it’ll compromise the investigation having a rookie on the case. Riley becomes particularly dedicated to the next case, as the victims are hung and posed after their deaths by throat slitting. This reminds her of Marie, a woman who took her own life by hanging in association with the Peterson case.

After a break-in, Riley makes it known she thinks it was Peterson. The FBI believes he’s dead and the other officers think Riley’s lost her mind. However, while she and Lucy are investigating the serial killings in Reedsport, New York, she gets an urgent text from April. Reluctantly, she returns home to discover Ryan lost track of April. April has been kidnapped and Riley is certain Peterson took her. Her best friend and former partner, Bill Jeffreys, returns to help her find April before it’s too late. Meanwhile, April is a chip off the block, doing whatever it takes to escape Peterson before he murders her. The climax of the first story leaves Riley questioning her motives and moral compass.

My favorite character is Riley. Riley is easy to relate to. She’s realistic, human, and flawed. She’d do anything to protect her daughter. She’s driven to do whatever it takes to bring down the killer, even if it skirts crossing the line. Riley tiptoes over the line more than once in this book. Will Riley be in danger of fully embracing her dark side? Will she one day turn into what she hates? I also enjoyed her discussions with Hatcher, an imprisoned criminal and killer with insights into the psychology of killing, particularly with chains. Hatcher possesses an uncanny ability to empathize with cops and killers alike. This allows him to play mind games with them if they’re not careful.

I enjoyed Once Taken and would recommend it to readers of crime thrillers.

There are ten books in this series at the present time. You can find them (in order) here:

Once Gone A free download with over 800  5 star reviews!

Once Taken

Once Craved

Once Lured

Once Hunted

Once Pined

Once Forsaken

Once Cold

Once Stalked

Once Lost

Book Synopsis

ONCE TAKEN is book #2 in the bestselling Riley Paige mystery series, which begins with ONCE GONE (Book #1)–a free download with over 800 five star reviews!

Women are being murdered in upstate New York, their bodies found mysteriously hanging in chains. With the FBI called in, given the bizarre nature of the murders—and the lack of any clues—there is only one agent they can turn to: Special Agent Riley Paige.

Riley, reeling from her last case, is reluctant to take on a new one, since she is still convinced a former serial killer is out there, stalking her. She knows, though, that her ability to enter a serial killer’s mind and her obsessive nature is what will be needed to crack this case, and she just can’t refuse—even if it will push her over the edge.

Riley’s search takes her deep into a killer’s deluded mind as it leads her to orphanages, mental hospitals, prisons, all in an effort to understand the depth of his psychosis. Realizing she is up against a true psychopath, she knows time is short before he strikes again. But with her own job on the line and her own family a target, and with her fragile psyche collapsing, it may all be too much for her—and too late.

A dark psychological thriller with heart-pounding suspense, ONCE TAKEN is book #2 in a riveting new series—with a beloved new character—that will leave you turning pages late into the night.

Book #3 in the Riley Paige series–ONCE CRAVED–is also available!

About the Author

Blake Pierce is author of the bestselling RILEY PAGE mystery series, which include the mystery suspense thrillers ONCE GONE (book #1), ONCE TAKEN (book #2), ONCE CRAVED (#3) and ONCE LURED (#4). Blake Pierce is also the author of the MACKENZIE WHITE mystery series and AVERY BLACK mystery series.

An avid reader and lifelong fan of the mystery and thriller genres, Blake loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit blakepierceauthor.com to learn more and stay in touch.

Check out other reviews at:

Once Taken at The Forensic Bibliophile

Once Taken at My Little Book Blog

Killing Kate by Alex Lake

Killing Kate by Alex Lake, 417 pages, October 6th 2016, HarperCollins Publishers, Genre: Thriller and Suspense/Serial Killers/Crime. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Kate and her friends take a trip to Greece on vacation after Kate breaks up with her long time boyfriend, Phil. Phil didn’t take the break up well, not well at all. Phil believed they were ready for marriage, kids, and growing old together. Kate, on the other hand, had never been with anyone but Phil, had never experienced much in life on her own, and decided she needed to do so before she could commit. Phil can’t stop thinking about Kate. He’s obsessed with her. When he decides to date another woman, she not only looks like Kate, but she’s just intended to make Kate jealous. Phil can’t seem to move on.

On her vacation, Kate gets drunk and almost sleeps with a man named Mike she picks up in a bar. Mike, the perfect gentleman, doesn’t take advantage of her and lets her sleep it off in his bedroom. The next day, Kate decides she never wants to see Mike again. Upon her return to England, however, Kate finds Phil is faring no better. Phil texts, calls, and ‘unexpectedly checks in on’ her for a while. As women who look remarkably like Kate and live in the same town get murdered one after another, the tension rises. Kate realizes she could be a serial killer’s next target. Changing her hair and wearing colored contacts makes sense, until the killer switches to killing women who look like Kate after the changes.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The writing style kept me engaged through to the end. I wasn’t surprised by the time the villain was revealed, but it did keep me guessing for much of the book. I didn’t like Kate very much. I liked the other characters in the novel. Kate is lucky to have such good friends; including, yes, the slightly stalkerish Phil. The climax of the story kept me on the edge of my seat with concern for everyone involved. I’d recommend this book to readers who enjoy suspense and thriller novels.

This book can be found at Killing Kate.

Book Description:

From the author of ebook No. 1 bestseller and Sunday Times top ten bestseller AFTER ANNA.

A serial killer is stalking your home town.

He has a type: all his victims look the same.

And they all look like you.

Kate returns from a post break-up holiday with her girlfriends to news of a serial killer in her hometown – and his victims all look like her.

It could, of course, be a simple coincidence.

Or maybe not.

She becomes convinced she is being watched, followed even. Is she next? And could her mild-mannered ex-boyfriend really be a deranged murderer?

Or is the truth something far more sinister?

About the Author:

Alex Lake is a British novelist who was born in the North West of England. After Anna, the author’s first novel written under this pseudonym, was a No.1 bestselling ebook sensation and a top ten Sunday Times bestseller. The author now lives in the North East of the US.

Check out some other reviews at:

Killing Kate at Always With a Book

ARC Book Review: Killing Kate

The Ultimatum by Karen Robards

Thief with a heart!

 

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The Ultimatum: An International Spy Thriller (The Guardian Book 1) by Karen Robards, MIRA, 336 pages, July 13th 2017, Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense/Organized Crime. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

“What I’m doing is trying to save a little girl and her mother, and yes, that’s worth risking my life,” says Bianca St. Ives, an international thief with a heart of gold. In this intriguing dance of crooks, cops, and killers, Robards provides us with a harder-than-diamonds heroine who’s soft in all the right places. Although her father taught her ‘the rules’, a code that ensures her survival even at the expense of others, Bianca often finds herself making ‘exceptions’.

Bianca St. Ives has been trained since childhood by her father to be a master of disguise, thief, con artist, security specialist, martial artist and part of his team. A huge heist goes horribly wrong in Bahrain, leading to an explosion that takes the life of her father. Bianca must pick up the pieces, returning to her ‘cover’ life in Savannah as the head of a her own security firm. Doc, the only surviving member of his team, returns with her and acts in the capacity of her internet and computer expert. While monitoring her father’s email, Doc and Bianca get an offer for a job directed to her dad. Bianca takes the job. When things go from bad to worse, she tries to get out of the job, to no avail, as the lives of others hang in the balance. Bianca’s journey leads her to discover more about her origins, true identity, and her family’s past. The cliffhanger ending readies the reader for the next installment in the series, leaving us wanting more.

For fans of Robards’ previous Romantic Suspense novels, this first installment may leave you feeling the romantic aspect is lacking. Bianca has steamy chemistry in her cat-and-mouse game with Mickey, but it never goes deeper. There is potential for fleshing out a deeper relationship in later books. A lot of questions about Bianca’s past remain unanswered. In this book, you’ll find a lot of descriptive spy activity, suspenseful action, and a couple of interesting twists.

I enjoyed reading this first installment and I’m anxiously looking forward to seeing where the series goes as well as finding out more about Bianca’s past. I’d recommend this book to readers who enjoy strong female protagonists and criminal/suspense novels.

Amazon link: The Ultimatum by Karen Robards

Website: http://www.karenrobards.com/

Biography:

Karen Robards is a bestselling novelist from Louisville, Kentucky. She has penned over 50 published novels since 1981 and had her work translated into 17 languages. Starting off as a historical romance writer, Robards switched to Romantic Suspense. Her most recent novel, The Ultimatum, is a Spy Thriller.

Her father was an orthodontist and when she visited his work, she read his copies of Reader’s Digest. In 1973, she sold her first short story to Reader’s Digest for $100. Her first book, “Island Flame”, was the result of a graduate level writing class assignment. Not realizing she’d have to read the work to the class, she chose to write the assignment in the historical romance genre. Her first book stayed on the shelves three weeks, which was standard in those days. She took a job at an orthodontist’s office and during her lunch break, worked on her second novel bit by bit. “To Love a Man” sold to new publisher and began selling quickly. She won a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award.

Check out other reviews at:

The Ultimatum at All About Romance

The Ultimatum at Publisher’s Weekly