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Sour Lake Or, The Beast

Sour Lake: Or, The Beast

Keep the lights on when you read this book! Sour Lake Or, The Beast will transport you back in time to East Texas, 1911. Chapter one is called Pray, and that is your only warning of what is to lie ahead. A brutal and gruesome death of the young school teacher Lenard Dalchau leads you into the world of this small Texas county of Ochiltree. Prejudice and racism run high and the locals want this death solved and forgotten quick. Reeves Duncan, the sheriff however isn’t one to just jump to conclusions and hang the wrong man. Agreeing with the sheriff that this is no ordinary murder case is “Doc” Walter McDivitt that has seen enough brutality for a lifetime. These two take the lead in discovering the truth. Together they discover a truth that no one wants to hear, and no one would believe if they did.

Bruce McCandless III is a talented author that is a cross between Steven King and the voice actor Robert Clotworthy. The historical descriptions and language are offensive to modern society but are accurate for 1911. It is so clear you feel like you are really back in Texas in the early 1900’s and living with this society. I’m not typically a person that enjoys horror novels because my imagination will just keep me up all night with every bump in the dark. McCandless however has written a story so engaging I couldn’t put it down. There are so many surprises in the pages it is hard to reveal much for fear of giving away the next piece of the plot. I can say I fell in love with the character of Sheriff Duncan. A man that lost his wife, became an alcoholic and overcame it. A mild mannered man that wants to be fair and not rock the boat. He does have a conscience and uses that to guide him as the story progresses, that inner instinct and unwillingness to follow a mob mentality. Sheriff Duncan believes in facts, and even when those facts point to things that should not be real he doesn’t discredit it. When all is said and done, he just wants to walk away. But how can you walk away from the nightmares he endured?

This is a novel you just can’t put down, it will draw in readers that like historical fiction, horror, a little sci-fi and a lot of action and gore. All the main characters are given rich back stories so you feel you really know who they are and how they ended up in Ochiltree County. The story line is unique and completely original probably because of when it takes places. Overall, I recommend this book to anyone that needs an escape from modern drama, this book will take you away and make you think, as well as surprise you from one chapter to the next.

Pages: 228 | ASIN: B06XR9T91W

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Truth and Authenticity

John Castello Author Interview

John Costello Author Interview

Executive Hoodlum follows the true life story of John Costello where he uses his harsh upbringing to move up the corporate world. What inspired you to put your story into a book?

Ultimately there were three reasons I wrote the book:

1. I wanted to pass on the story to my kids so they have an appreciation of their legacy. Why they enjoy certain privileges, and to make certain they remain humble knowing the sacrifices that sometimes need to be made to succeed in life and for the next generation.

2. As a volunteer boxing trainer for under-privileges kids I was able to give something back to my community. It was personally rewarding to me so I wanted to give something back in a bigger way. That is to reach a larger audience of would be under dogs to demonstrate they have the opportunity to succeed no matter what the circumstances.

3. I wanted to relieve the burden of my own guilt pertaining to the last words I spoke to my mother before she died. Those words haunted me for decades. I never reconciled my differences with my father prior to his death either. We were at terrible odds as usual but he was alive long enough to make an attempt at reconciliation but chose not to, not with me anyway. Consequently I do not carry the same guilt as with my mother. I did write most of the book and long overseas plane trips and found myself crying writing a couple chapters. Now that the truth is out there, I somehow feel better.

A little background will put the situation into better perspective:

Best Selling author Larry Elder is the one who put the book idea in my head as he is a friend for about ten years. In fact, he was originally going to be my ghost writer. However, it was decided the book had to be in my words due to my slang and other vernacular to be authentic. With my busy work schedule, I was going to drop the whole thing. Problem being, I hate to start something and not finish. Technically Larry inspired me to write as he brought up the original deal as described in my acknowledgements. Prior to beginning the effort in earnest, I contemplated the above three reasons.

Note – I never intended on writing a book because I would have to relive things in my life I was successful in suppressing. However, age and maturity helped me become more open with my early family life.

Additionally, there are individuals in Chicago, New York and New Jersey that I did not want to have to deal with when it comes to some of the content. These are friends I have maintained and kept in contact over many years. I personally spoke to each person, mob boss, made guy, associate and the outlaw biker leaders individually to let them know my intention. To my surprise, to a person they noted they respected my street savvy enough to give the thumbs up.

The characters in this book were well developed and interesting. How close did you stay true to real events and what did you take liberties with?

Thankfully, I did not have to manufacture any drama. The one upside to being born a Costello!

I took no liberties because my street and business credibility are important to me. I played down certain events due to statute of limitation consideration. Most of what is in my book can be authenticated via documents I kept (murder investigations, police reports, death certificates, pictures,letters. newsreels and other documents I collected when fact checking. Additionally, there are third parties I contacted that were with me during certain events I consulted to make certain my recollections were as accurate as possible)

I’m not a big fan of fiction. Truth and authenticity are of utmost importance. This stems from certain things I know that have been portrayed in both books and movies about people I personally know or knew, that were embellished.

John finds himself surrounded by constant turmoil with gangs, members of the underworld, murder, suicide, and drug addiction. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

The ugly truth of my own family, especially the circumstances of deaths of my mother, brother and cousin.

What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?

There are many entertaining stories I was reminded of by friends I did not include in this book. Consequently, there may be a part two.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Facebook

Executive Hoodlum: Negotiating on the Corner of Main and Mean by [Costello, John, Elder, Larry]

Meet John Costello, Vice President of Business Development and Government Relations for Microsemi Corporation, a $6 billion leader in the advanced-semiconductor market. Well known and respected in the industry, John Costello graduated from college in 1983 with a degree in Business Administration. John’s social circle includes high-level corporate executives, politicians, military leaders and movie stars. As a young boy he played Little League baseball and Pop Warner football, and went on to become an outstanding track and cross-country runner in high school, captain of his college rowing team, and an accomplished boxer in the Golden Gloves and other tournaments. With this wholesome All-American resumé, most would think that John Costello emerged from a solid middle-class family with all the usual privileges pertaining – though nothing could be further from the truth. Costello was born into a working-class neighborhood on Chicago’s north side and grew up under quite difficult conditions. His father was a talented Italian tenor with mob connections and a proclivity for violence; his mother, the daughter of an Irish street cop, was a straight-laced Catholic girl till she took to the bottle after falling victim to that violence. Surrounded by constant turmoil and hardship involving gangs, members of the underworld, murder, suicide, drug addiction as well as physical and emotional abuse, John eventually transcended his circumstances to obtain a higher education and pursue a profitable career that entailed all the perks of an executive lifestyle inclusive of the Hollywood party circuit.

Readers who might enjoy this book are those interested in true-crime stories, mob activity, murder and mayhem, as well as anyone seeking a no-holds-barred story that describes the resilience of the human spirit. Spiced with wit and humor and distinguished by the inimitable voice of tough-talking John Costello, his story touches our hearts while keeping us on the edge of our seats.

Other comparable books include The Truthbook: A Memoir by Joy Castro, which describes a similar childhood fraught with abuse and dysfunction. The theme of destructive behavior and personal downward spiral in the fight game and mobster milieu is also taken up in Raging Bull by Jake La Motta. Then there is the true-crime and gangster activity to be found in Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob by Jeff Coen, as well as in The Neighborhood Outfit: Organized Crime in Chicago Heights by Matthew Luzi. All these works taken together give some idea of the scope of John Costello’s life as recounted in his own book.

And that is what makes our book “unique” – John Costello’s life is unique. It has been a strange blend of two distinct worlds, but with one foot firmly emplaced in each. The fact that he is comfortable meeting with Senator John McCain in the morning to discuss government business, and can then enjoy the company of old friends from the streets of Chicago in the evening, is indicative of his parallel lives and will certainly be something readers find highly intriguing. We have an extensive collection of family photos, newspaper clippings, death certificates, court papers, and other supporting documentation for all claims made, as well as music recordings and video that would introduce the amazing voice of Johnny’s father to a whole new generation.

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Dead Air

Dead Air

Dead Air: A Glenn Beckert Mystery by Cliff Protzman is a thrilling mystery story. Glenn “Beck” Beckert runs the security for a radio station where his friend, Zito, from high school works. While this friend is working, he is shot in the head. Beck finds himself involved in the investigation and it turns out that the list of suspects is fairly complicated. Far more people had motive to murder his friend than he anticipated. The widow and the victim were both unfaithful, giving plenty of motive. He was also on the outs with the radio station stockholders that were looking to sell. Then Zito’s laptop uncovers a mystery all of it’s own.

Beck finds Irene, an old love, to help him unlock the mystery of Zito’s laptop. The laptop reveals even more than they both could have expected. Meanwhile, they start to realize there is still chemistry between them. Add in both mysterious and not so mysterious threats on Beck’s life, and you have the premise of this thrilling novel.

I felt like this novel did a fantastic job of utilizing a standard mystery format to deliver a thrilling and engaging story. A ‘whodunit’ novel that develops fascinating characters and puts them in some interesting situations.

I enjoyed the depth of each character, which is important in building suspense in a mystery novel. Cliff Protzman has fully realized characters with their own personal quandaries about right and wrong, which is refreshing. So many writers create characters that don’t adapt and flow through the story. It’s nice to see someone really put some thought and love into their character development.

What has really made this novel enjoyable is the way the mystery unfolds. It felt like the murder victim had many layers that Beck was slowly peeling off, one by one, only to find that the person at the core wasn’t who he appeared to be. In a way, many of the characters were that way. Each having their individual things they wanted the world to see, but as the story line and the investigation continued, we get to see the real person underneath the facade. Some of those people were nothing like what they wanted everyone else to believe they were.

Dead Air: A Glenn Beckert Mystery by Cliff Protzman is a well written dark murder mystery novel. The story was easy to follow with twists that I could follow. Get yourself ready for this novel; it was a fun read.

Pages: 321 | ASIN: B0765VNM1K

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Out of the Shadows

Out of the Shadows (Shadowlands #1)

I recently read Out of the Shadows by Ashlee Nicole Bye and was immediately hooked by the first chapter. The prologue to the book, which I admittedly skip over, caught my eye and sets the scene for what is a very interesting concept and well written novel. We meet Julian, who we learn is not from this world as he uses ‘humans’ and as you read on, you learn that he is way older than he appears to be. Although his age isn’t described until later, you know he’s old because his eyesight has been bestowed to him almost a century and a half ago. Clearly, he’s seen some things.

I really enjoyed this book. Maybe it’s because I’m Australian as well and we rarely get treated to books that are supernatural AND also mention state capitals that we know (such as Melbourne), but it was immediately easy to immerse myself into this world that Ashlee has so lovingly created. The characters, such as Sachi, are so well written that you can feel their pain, anguish and confusion as Sachi is thrown into a world she’s not entirely sure about. Sachi’s best friend was killed by the ‘Melbourne Slasher’, but it’s not until she ventures out after months of solitude that she sees things that were definitely not there before.

As the book goes on, Sachi and Julian’s worlds become intertwined as we learn that Julian and his friend Moss are a part of a secret society of reapers (which explains why he’s over a century and a half old) called the Order of Light and Dark, who are tasked with finding out what the Melbourne Slasher is and how they plan on stopping it.

This book also brings into play a very interesting idea that you can play with. The Order of the Light and Dark, and their jobs as reapers, means that they control who dies, when they are supposed to die and what manner they are supposed to die in. This ‘melbourne slasher’ is throwing everything out of balance and is throwing the reapers off schedule. It brings a concept forward that can make you feel at peace; your death has been scheduled and you are going to die when you are supposed to. For a control freak like myself, I really liked this concept.

I really ejoyed Sachi and her strong banter with the other characters within the book. I love that strong female leads are becoming the norm (thanks, Gone Girl!). I feel like without the banter and the wit of Sachi, this book would have been a bit difficult to read. She definitely made me laugh a fair bit.

Another thing I enjoyed were the chapter names. The first one had me snorting with ‘It’s too damn hot for a monster to just be walking around’. Ashlee really nails how Australians tend to describe things and this definitely comes forth in the chapter titles. They were descriptive and funny and accurate.

Pages: 338 | ASIN: B06W58K67L

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The Consort Conspiracy

The Consort Conspiracy (Covington Family Mystery #1)

Kaye Schmitz’s The Consort Conspiracy talks about an ancient cemetery deep in the Lowland of Georgia that has been there for over two centuries and protects the remains of the infamous murderer whose act of betrayal changed the history of the town and catapulted the descendants of the murdered victim into the nation’s highest political office.

Kate Covington, a thirty one year old intrepid journalist travels to Midway Georgia, the hometown of the current president Wilford Pennington, to film a documentary to help boost his favorability ratings after he could not keep his privates in his pants. The search for answers to her documentary brings her to the cemetery that has buried more secrets than bodies. But her curiosity almost gets her killed.

The book starts steadily but picks up the pace after the introductory. There are several story lines that are juggled and all are meticulously developed. Kaye Schmitz brings them together in surprising ways with twists that I didn’t see coming. I enjoyed the detailed writing style as well as the alternating perspectives, we even get to travel from the past to the present. All of it intricately weaving together story lines that seem to be separate but which culminate in a explosive piece full of suspense.

As Kate busies herself gathering information for her documentary, she unearths a secret about the first family that could lead to their undoing. The truth about the death of Dr. Aaron Pennington, a descendant of the president will also be uncovered. Mr. Wilford’s political career rests on this murder that happened more than two hundred years ago. This all lends to a thrilling joyride of a novel.

Kate has to deal with some highly emotional issues throughout the story, like when she discovers the truth about the death of her mother. A truth that will not only change the town’s history but Kate’s future as well.

The historical facts that have embellished the present tale and the vivid and compelling characters portrayed by the heroes and villains keep one turning the pages. You really can envision how the characters, as well as the locations, look through Kaye Schmitz detailed description.

When the two handsome men Dan Pennington and Joshua Warrington start competing for Kate’s attention the book becomes a can’t-put-it-down tale. By the end the outcome was both satisfying and unexpected. Just when you thought you figured it all out, you realize you don’t. It was well written and keeps one on the edge of their seat. It was one of those stories that you have to read word by word for fear of missing something crucial. It really was a page turner.

Pages: 331 | ASIN: B071G89PBW

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The Dark Legend of the Foreigner

In 17th century Japan, a battle between the shoguns and the Lees raged for a lengthy period of time. The shoguns wanted the Lees to come join their elite army, but the Lees remained neutral and peaceful people. After much harassing, the husband and wife became supreme warriors. The Lees began killing whatever shoguns threatened them. After a particularly violent, gruesome battle with the shoguns, the Lees disappeared into the Oakla Mountains for about twenty years . The mastermind, an ancient wizard siding with the shoguns, commanded what was left of the shoguns to patrol the mountains of Oakla trying to find the Lees. Decades would pass.

In those twenty long years, the Lees raised a son who would become known as “the Master.” Phenomenal genetics would breed an individual who became a far better warrior and stronger fighter then both of his parents put together. In the Master’s infantile years, the mother and father went up on the mountains of Oakla, similar to Moses’ summoning of God, where they asked their God for a sacrifice. He answered, and in return of this sacrifice, he would give their extraordinary son, the Master, the power of immortality in the form of Five Scrolls of Terror. Their God asked for the skin from their baby’s head, a threatening request, but would ultimately create a child who would grow into that of the Master: the Skulled Warrior.

As the Lees returned from Oakla on that twentieth or so year, they got ambushed and killed—an attack decades in the making. When the Master found the bodies of his parents, he naturally flew into a blind rage and killed many shoguns, slaughtering anyone who stood in his way. As he battled on Oakla Mountain, his scrolls disappeared off the mountain and were never seen again. As the Master went to the end of Oakla searching for the ancient wizard for retribution, he came across an ancient hut, and inevitably the wizard and the Master did battle. The Master would ultimately kill the wizard, but he would put a curse on the Master that would remain with the Master for nearly four hundred years. As the Master’s statue, which in reality was the curse turning him to stone, was moved by cult followers and believers, it eventually found its way to New Amsterdam, which as we know, would evolve into present-day New York City.

An adventure unfolds as the Master awakens after a four-hundred-year slumber, masked as a mysterious piece of art, to deal with our current world as we know it. And so begins The Dark Legend of The Foreigner.

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Death by the Jaguar

Death by the Jaguar

Sudden and violent loss is the introduction to this story, a war veteran and his family fall victim to a tragic and yet seemingly deliberate attempt on their lives. Our main character survives, along with the family dog, but we quickly learn the fate of his wife and son was far more grisly. When local law enforcement fail to provide the answers he seeks, our war veteran takes matters into his own hands. Answers alone will not right this; we follow the recently widowed down the rabbit hole of his own thirst for revenge, strongly driven in his pursuit.

Death by the Jaguar piqued my interest right away, a personal fan of sailing and being on the water, and I definitely enjoyed how often it returned to that setting. Either James Ruby is experienced himself or did his research, as his attention to detail regarding many basic mechanics and proper names surrounding the handling of water craft was on point. His technical skill as a writer shined through once more in regards to setting the scene. Ruby paints a picture well, giving enough focus on the characters surroundings to immerse the reader without putting too much weight in to detail. One aspect that continuously distracted me was his over use of commas. The flow of the story remained choppy throughout, thoughts consistently broken up too much by the trip of a comma.

I feel Ruby did a solid job portraying the scattered and distracted mindset of the main character, writing his portions of the story from a first person point of view. Consistently being pulled into the memories of a war veteran while he doggedly pursues justice for his family shows a glimpse of what it is like living with PTSD. I was a little bit back and forth on how I felt overall about just how quickly he gained his thirst for revenge, with little to no mourning and not even attending the funeral. However, I still felt he wrote this broken character with fair knowledge of human psychology. One thing that caught my attention was that we never seem to catch the name of our main character. I could be wrong and just missed it, but I personally find myself relating to a character better when I at least know their name.

Another issue was the repetitive interactions of Sullivan, an arrogant Chief of the local law. It seemed that with every interaction there was so much focus on this characters need to assert his station of power, his need for it to be recognized. The story itself left me wanting; the entire tale is a build up of vengeful actions, but in many respects it lacks the expected action factor, making it somewhat difficult to stay interested.

I was impressed with James Ruby’s ability to set the scene and draw the reader in, as well as his attention to detail regarding areas that the common person wouldn’t be too educated in.

Pages: 291 | ASIN: B0755JWFNR

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Shadow of the Moon

Shadow of the Moon: A Fantasy of Love, Murder and Werewolves by [Griffeth, Kwen]

Shadow of the Moon, written by Kwen Griffeth, follows Special Agent Adaline “Andee” Trakes and Detective Gerald Meeker who are sent to a shocking crime scene in Central Park. Here, a faceless man sparks the beginning of a thrilling investigation into the life and death of a diplomat’s son.

Together they work on the case where they uncover an unusual aspect of the murder. Werewolves, or more importantly, a werewolf executioner, seems to be on the loose. Baffled by the case, Trakes is sent to meet with a history professor, Alwyn Lloyd, who specializes in myths and legends. Andee Trakes will soon learn that there may be some truth behind the notion of werewolves as she delves deep into a world of hierarchy and crime. Who is the killer behind these gruesome attacks?

Shadow of the Moon is a crime novel with a dash of supernatural mystery that will have you fixed to the edge of your seat. Prepare to be taken on a wild ride as you uncover gruesome secrets involving werewolves, FBI agents, and killers. There’s a taste of everything in this novel, from crime to romance, to action and mystery.

The first scene is gruesome, with a man who has been shot with what appears to be a canon to his face. Even the tracker dogs are avoiding the scene like the plague, leaving the agents baffled by the scene. Andee Trakes takes on the case, determined to get the bottom of the killer’s intentions, even if she stumbles across more than what she bargained for. Arthur Hubbard, the Special Agent in Charge of the case, is wary of her and how much she has been shifted around. Trakes takes it in her stride and proves that she is more than just a pretty face. She’s confident, smart and understands the motives of killers better than most.

One of my favorite characters was Professor Alwyn Lloyd. Lloyd is smooth, sexy and claims to be an Alpha werewolf. When Trakes goes to meet Lloyd for information, there is an instant attraction between the pair. However, there is more to Lloyd then meets the eye and Trake’s must divide her attention between her attraction to the Professor and government business. Lloyd provides deep intel into the history of werewolves, leaving the reader with the impression that they could potentially be a very real and alive.

Shadow of the Moon takes readers on a journey where they are able to visit the parks, city, and homes of the people who live in the great city of New York. Kwen Griffeth paints a picture of a busy city life and provides a stark imagery contrasted with Trakes visits to the countryside. Griffeth, as usual, provides a literary masterpiece that will capture the reader’s attention with its clever plot line and intriguing characters.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys being kept on their toes as they delve into crime, romance, and supernatural beings.

Pages: 336 | ASIN: B075XCD516

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Antitheus

Antitheus

A short, yet deliciously terrifying read can be found between the covers of Antitheus by G.A. Minton. A secluded inn, a group of religious leaders on a retreat and a well-timed blizzard set the stage for this thrilling horror story. When the aging innkeeper stumbles upon a badly mangled body that used to be one of his guests, the world he knew comes crashing down. Once the town sheriff comes to the inn to investigate our cast is complete. The horrors that await the soon-to-be stranded group evolve into a madness of biblical proportions. What could possibly be hunting them in the blizzard? Who murdered the minister and scrawled such a distasteful message in blood? These are the questions that will be answered in this compacted tale.

There is no shortage of gore and violence in this horror story. The graphic detail Minton puts into his storytelling is captivating while being slightly gruesome. It is not overdone, however, which can happen in tales like this. Not a drop of blood is out of place and the murders occur within a carefully crafted plan. This classic whodunit gets a twist while the characters try to flee for their lives. As each murder occurs it is clear that something is lurking in the blizzard and it very much wants to devour them. The infusion of religious content with traditional horror blends nicely. The religious aspects fit the story and they aren’t overdone or excessive.

The story begins strongly; captivating the reader and pulling them in. But there is the addition of a supernatural occurrence that doesn’t fit the story. The book would have been fine without it and while it serves a purpose, it seems like an afterthought. There is some concern with continuity: the characters refer to what is hunting them as ‘intelligent’, yet the trap they set is mundane. There is some clarification later on, but the tale is slightly marred by this. The ending feels rushed, which is a contrast to how meticulously the opening was laid out. G.A. Minton is a fantastic writer, I just wish that greatness was on display consistently throughout the book.

If you’re looking for a quick read and horror is your genre of choice, this is a tidy little book that will hold your interest. The majority of it has the makings of a terrific horror story; however it could have used some ironing out. There is magnificent potential and the reader will be able to tell that the G.A. Minton put thought and effort into the telling of Antitheus.

Pages: 198 | ASIN: B0744XJ11K

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The Taking of Peggy Martin

The Taking of Peggy Martin

Karen Glista sets the book The Taking of Peggy Martin in the deep south of Texas. The book details the tribulations of a once God-fearing widowed nurse known as Peggy. She suffers from sleeplessness, which she takes advantage of to regale tales of her childhood and traumatizing loss of her husband. We see her struggle in a mental asylum and her contact with a wild young man by the name of Morgan in Piney wood thicket. The author mingles horror with science fiction to illuminate the mystery in the book. The author uses lots of colorful language to conceal the horror of murder, rape, and macabre details witnessed by Peggy.

The author does a great job of keeping the readers interest in the book despite the vile and gory details. Peggy witnesses what we would call horrendous encounters of eviscerations, decapitations, and murder. To those who are not fans of horror, the flowery language of the author encourages one to read on. However, the author uses colloquial expression and slang which would keep the reader unfamiliar with Texan dialect researching on what some of the words mean.

I tried to pin down what genre this book would be in, but then gave up and just enjoyed the blend of mystery, horror and macabre recounts in the Texan thicket.

Within just the first quarter of the book the author has packed so much information character building that sets the rest of the book up nicely to proceed with vigor punctuated by horribly enthralling events. For those who love the quick speeds at which the story unfolds, you would thoroughly enjoy this edge-of-seat thriller.

Peggy comes across as a pious lady who is unfortunately haunted by her past. She is enigmatic and one cannot tell what caused her husband’s death or if she had anything to do with her dark past… “The more we learn about her, the darker she gets”. Peggy is a strong, resilient lady, given her struggle at the mental asylum. We do not have much information about Morgan except that he is mute and wild, having grown into a feral man. The author has employed various styles in the book such as contrast, colloquialism, vivid description, and slang. The main ideas in the story revolve around rape, murder, and mental instability.

The Taking of Peggy Martin has excellent narration and is an engaging and mysterious thriller that touches even the deepest of our emotions. The plot has a nice flow that takes you through Peggy’s emotional roller coaster, and as things unfold, we can unravel some of the issues in the book.

Pages: 382 | ASIN: B07466DS5H

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