All at Sea by Chris McDonald

Blog tour: 17 to 21 February 2022


All aboard!

Adam and Colin are aboard The Elysian, cruising towards Italy to see Adam get hitched, and are determined to stay out of trouble …

On the first night, a priceless piece of art is stolen from an eccentric old lady. Adam and Colin offer to help recover it, and are convince the thief was one of their fellow dinner guests from earlier in the evening.

Can the amateur sleuths reunite the painting with its owner before they dock in Venice? And, with danger lurking around every porthole, will Adam even make it to the altar?

All at Sea is the sixth in the Stonebridge Mysteries series of cosy crime novellas.

About the series

Stonebridge is a small town on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Most of its inhabitants are friendly, happy people. Most of them … Because bad things happen even in the happiest of places. It’s a good thing, then, that Adam Whyte and Colin McLaughlin call Stonebridge home.

Armed with an encyclopaedic knowledge of detective shows, a misplaced sense of confidence and a keen desire to see justice done, these two are the closest thing the town has to saviours. Which isn’t that reassuring …

My review

Set nearly six months after Mistletoe and Crime, All at Sea is the sixth book in the brilliant Stonebridge Mysteries series. It’s nearly time for Adam and Helena’s wedding in Lake Garda and his mum has kindly paid for the couple to take a European cruise on The Elysian in the week leading up to the wedding. Unfortunately, Helena’s dress needs alterations and she insists on staying behind to sort things out. This is good news for best man, Colin, who gets invited on the eight-night first class trip to Venice instead!

Neither Adam nor Colin has been on an ocean liner before and their packing leaves something to be desired with neither selecting clothes suitable for the opulent settings! The pair are shown to their quarters for the duration – the bridal suite, which sounds amazing!

On their first evening on the ship, they attend a tasting menu meal in the Augustine Lounge and there are some interesting guests at their table: an actor called Vaughn McClusky, an American art dealer called Tex Rivera, Henry Carver-Clark, Isiah Lookman, an Irish businessman called Sean O’Connell and an old lady called Maggie, who is carrying a framed painting named Grachten, which is worth around £4 million!

When Maggie is attacked in her room and her painting is stolen, Adam and Colin can’t ignore the crime – despite promising Helena they’d stay out of trouble – and they swing into action and subtly interview the men they met the previous night and have a few intriguing and dangerous encounters as they try to solve the case.

As usual, there were some good twists, turns and red herrings in this locked room type mystery, which has only a handful of potential suspects. I was suspicious of a few dodgy characters and had fun trying to guess (unsuccessfully) who was responsible for the theft!

Adam and Colin are a great amateur sleuthing duo and always work well together to solve some puzzling crimes. The twosome get rather a lot of luck along the way but that’s all part of the fun!

I always love the amusing chapter titles in these novellas – they’re a brilliant device to give the reader a little insight into what’s to come!

All at Sea is another well-plotted and entertaining novella from the author and I’m a big fan of this fab series! The book is a quick read, at around 100 pages, but it’s engaging, action packed and full of intrigue and suspense. The story develops satisfyingly and there are some witty lines.

I really enjoy this engaging, well-written crime mystery series and spending time with Adam and Colin and I’m already looking forward to the next instalment!

Buy the book

All at Sea by Chris McDonald can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle, in hardback and paperback, or from Kobo or Google Books. Purchase the hardback, paperback and eBook directly from the Red Dog Press online shop.

About the author

Originally hailing from the north coast of Northern Ireland and now residing in south Manchester, Chris McDonald has always been a reader. At primary school, the Hardy Boys inspired his love of adventure before his reading world was opened up by Chuck Palahniuk and the gritty world of crime.

A Wash of Black was his first attempt at writing a book. He came up with the initial idea whilst feeding his baby in the middle of the night, which may not be the best thing to admit, considering the content. Whispers in the Dark and Roses for the Dead are the other two books in the DI Erika Piper series. The Stonebridge Mysteries series consists of six cosy crime novellas.

He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs.

Twitter: @cmacwritescrime
Facebook: @cmacwritescrime
Website: https://macsbookreview.wordpress.com
Instagram: @cmacwritescrime

Blog tour

Thanks to Sean Coleman at Red Dog Press for my digital copy of All at Sea and for my place on the blog tour.


Confessions by Caro Land



Dig for the truth and you’ll get dirty …

Natalie Bach is facing personal turmoil, legal conundrums and challenges. While trying to make a difference, she walks the fine line between being a help and a hindrance.

Seconded to criminal law firm, Savage Solicitors, Nat finds herself out of her depth when she’s handed a complicated and tragic case of assisted suicide. Will she get to the bottom of what really happened?

With a heavy workload to juggle, can Nat untangle her own feelings from another very personal and troubling investigation?

My review

Confessions is the second book in the Natalie Bach legal suspense series. It can be read as a standalone, as the past is mentioned, but I’d recommend reading Convictions first so that you get the full background to Natalie’s story.

In the first book, Natalie returned home to Manchester after five years of running a bar in Mallorca with her boyfriend, Jose, when her mum, Anna, suffered a bad stroke. He broke up with Natalie soon after so she went back to her old job at Goldman Law.

Set shortly after Convictions, Natalie finds herself flung headlong into more complicated cases when a personal tragedy means Gavin Savage has to take time out to be with his family and she acts as a locum lawyer for his criminal law firm, Savage Solicitors. Feeling a bit out of her depth, Natalie tackles the cases with the help of his staff and tries her hardest to make the best decisions, often with unforeseen consequences.

Her new relationship with Wesley Hughes, partner of the firm she works for, is still rather complicated and rocky and his ex-wife, Andrea, and mother of his 18-year-old twin sons, continues to try and interfere in his life, causing him and Natalie much upset and arguments. Natalie is a bit hot headed at times and, where Wesley is concerned, doesn’t always think things through before acting.

There are some more colourful characters in this story: in Gavin’s firm, we get to know bubbly secretary, Chantelle, and meet paralegal, Robbie, who has a sad past, as well as Lawrence Lamb QC, who is rather a character and admits to being a functioning alcoholic.

One of Goldman Law’s most wealthy clients, Brian Selby, returns and, this time, him and his family need Natalie’s help in a rather more serious matter and she ends up representing him.

Natalie’s mum, Anna, becomes frightened of leaving the house after her friend, Barbara, has a bad fall and ends up in hospital with a fractured ankle. She makes a new male friend though and starts socialising a lot more.

Natalie is a great protagonist but she often gives out advice that seems to end up making life more difficult for people. We see a more vulnerable and emotional side to her in this story and she has a lot to deal with as things seem to go from bad to worse and her cases get more complicated and fraught. She does well to focus as carefully as she does with all that’s going on around her!

Overall, I really enjoyed this full-bodied story – lots of plotlines and cases to get your teeth into and I was never quite sure how things were going to pan out. There are a few shocks and surprises along the way, and the odd dubious professional practice as well! It was an engaging and intelligent read with great attention to detail. As well as being very entertaining, the story was also amusing, as well as sad, at times.

This is another well-plotted and cleverly layered novel starring Natalie Bach. I read the two books back to back and really enjoyed continuing the story about the feisty lawyer as she tackled tough cases head on! She may not always make the right decisions but she doesn’t hold back from investigating and trying to help her clients. The series is building nicely now and I hope there will be another book soon!

Buy the book

Confessions by Caro Land can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

About the author

Caro Land is the pen name of Caroline England. The first in the Natalie Bach legal suspense series, Convictions, was published by Bloodhound Books in January 2020.

Born in Sheffield, Caroline studied Law at the University of Manchester and stayed over the border. Caroline was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer. She turned to writing when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters. Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a variety of literary publications and anthologies.

Caroline writes domestic psychological thrillers. Her debut novel, Beneath the Skin, known also as The Wife’s Secret in eBook, was published by Avon HarperCollins in October 2017. Her second novel, My Husband’s Lies, followed in May 2018 and became a Kindle top 10 bestseller. Her latest novel, Betray Her, published by Piatkus of Little, Brown Book Group, is now available as an eBook, audiobook and paperback.

Caroline also has two dark, twisty short story collections available on Amazon, both in eBook and paperback, Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses and Hanged by the Neck.

Twitter: @CazEngland
Facebook: @CazEngland1
Instagram: @cazengland1
Website: http://carolineenglandauthor.co.uk


With thanks to Caroline England for providing me with an advance reader copy of her book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Convictions by Caro Land



There are two sides to every crime …

Returning home to care for her ill mother, and approaching her fortieth birthday, Natalie Bach is devastated when she’s dumped without explanation by her long-term boyfriend.

Struggling to pick herself up, she’s offered her old job at Goldman Law. Jack Goldman’s estranged son Julian has been arrested for attempted murder and he wants Natalie to find out why.

With the help of fellow solicitor Gavin Savage, Natalie sets out to investigate, but with a series of red herrings ahead, will she ever discover the truth?

And can Natalie avoid her personal problems interfering with the case?

My review

Natalie Bach is nearly 40 and a solicitor. After her mum, Anna, has a bad stroke, she heads back home to Manchester to look after her. For the past five years, she’s been living in Mallorca and running a bar with her boyfriend, Jose Harrow, who’d been pursuing her since law school but, soon after she leaves, he splits up with Natalie via phone and tells her he no longer loves her. Shell shocked, she accepts the offer of her old job back at Goldman Law, and is thrown straightaway into a lot of complicated cases, which help her to take her mind off the break up.

For Natalie, she is returning home and she reconnects with her old boss, Jack Goldman, and her replacement and now partner at the firm, Wesley Hughes, and duty solicitor, Gavin Savage, both of whom she also met at Chester Law College. Everyone is glad to see her back and it’s almost like she’s never been away. Natalie, though, feels that everyone has moved on; she’s now single, childless and back at home in Cheadle village living with her mum, who is recovering well, and borrowing her old ‘turquoise’ Ford Ka to get around.

On her first day, Jack Goldman asks her to investigate his estranged son, Julian, who has been arrested for assault on his pregnant girlfriend, Aisha. The pair fell out after Jack divorced Julian’s mum and then almost immediately married his mistress, Catherine, the managing partner at his firm. The case is rather complicated and things get worse when Julian is then accused of attempted murder.

Natalie is still mourning her relationship with Jose at the beginning of the story and wants answers. She’s desperate to hear from him and shocked that he could end her relationship so callously and then change his number in response to her pleading text and calls.

Since returning to Goldman Law, Natalie hasn’t had much contact with Wesley apart from him making her audit files and she also intervenes and keeps a client, Brian Selby, happy when he was threatening to sack the firm after an error. At a 50th birthday party for Catherine at a new hotel, she has a proper catch up with Wesley but he has to take her home in a taxi after she drinks too much!

Wesley is married to Andrea, who he met at university in Sheffield, and they have twin sons, Matty and Dylan, aged 18, who have both just started at the same university their parents went to, and have a rather eventful Fresher’s week!

The book has a great cast of characters, who all seem to have rather complicated lives, including Natalie herself! There’s a lot of chemistry and past history with Wesley but the circumstances aren’t ideal! Her Polish mum, Anna, is lovely and caring and I enjoyed getting to know her. Natalie has a good rapport with Jack and Gavin, as well as bench boy, Max, and CPS solicitor, Joshim Khan, who she also knows from law school, and it’s fun to see her banter and relationships with them.

There are several plotlines in this intriguing and action-packed novel but I managed to keep track of who was who and remember the different cases. I assume this is characteristic of all the cases that a solicitor would handle in their line of work; juggling lots of information and details, and having contact with numerous people.

There were some good twists and turns in Convictions and I was surprised by some of the incidents that happened; it was certainly a shocking and eventful read! There were some underhand goings on and people definitely not behaving well, either professionally or personally!

Overall, I really enjoyed this cleverly plotted and well-layered story. It flowed well and was an absorbing read and an interesting start to the series. I look forward to reading the next novel, Confessions, and finding out more about Natalie and her life, and seeing how her character develops.

Buy the book

Convictions by Caro Land can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

About the author

Caro Land is the pen name of Caroline England. This book, the first in the Natalie Bach legal suspense series, was published by Bloodhound Books in January 2020. The follow up, Confessions, was published on 10 June 2020.

Born in Sheffield, Caroline studied Law at the University of Manchester and stayed over the border. Caroline was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer. She turned to writing when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters. Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a variety of literary publications and anthologies.

Caroline writes domestic psychological thrillers. Her debut novel, Beneath the Skin, known also as The Wife’s Secret in eBook, was published by Avon HarperCollins in October 2017. Her second novel, My Husband’s Lies, followed in May 2018 and became a Kindle top 10 bestseller. Her latest novel, Betray Her, published by Piatkus of Little, Brown Book Group, is now available as an eBook, audiobook and paperback.

Caroline also has two dark, twisty short story collections available on Amazon, both in eBook and paperback, Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses and Hanged by the Neck.

Twitter: @CazEngland
Facebook: @CazEngland1
Instagram: @cazengland1
Website: http://carolineenglandauthor.co.uk

Survive by Tom Bale



Paradise is about to become hell …

On a remote island in the Adriatic, an enigmatic billionaire hosts a twisted form of entertainment to satisfy the jaded appetites of his exclusive guests. And for one unsuspecting family, the holiday of a lifetime is about to become a desperate battle for survival.

As young parents, Sam and Jody have managed to defy the odds once before. But years of struggle have taken their toll, and Sam’s demons return to haunt him at the worst possible time.

Caught up in a sick game of cat and mouse, can they put their differences aside and work under intolerable pressure to save themselves and their children?

Live or die. It’s the only choice they have.

My review

Sam Berry and Jody Lamb, both 26, have two children, Grace (8) and Dylan (5). They’ve had some difficult times as they’re young parents and their daughter was conceived when Jody was only 17.

Sam is rather insecure and lacking in self-confidence, which comes from his background and being a young dad. The couple both feel judged for having children young, and are constantly worrying about what others think of them.

After saving for three years, they’re on their first family holiday abroad, all-inclusive, on the beautiful island of Sekliw in the Adriatic. They’re staying at the Adriana Beach, the number two hotel in the resort, and the holiday cost them a lot of money, nearly three thousand pounds.

At the welcome meeting, the couple are encouraged by their tour rep, Gabby, to enter a special prize draw to attend a VIP champagne reception at the Hotel Conchis, the most luxurious and exclusive accommodation on the island.

Sam and Jody are shocked and feel a bit uneasy when they discover that they’ve won the competition! They’re already out of their comfort zone and the reception sounds quite prestigious. They learn that the president’s son, Borko Radić, is expected to attend.

On the day of the reception, they’re driven for an hour in a stretch Hummer and then escorted into a function room, where there are a couple of hundred guests and a band, and offered drinks and canapés.

When the time comes for Borko Radić’s address, all the children are taken to another room to be entertained.

As the hours pass and after chatting for a while with another English couple, they’re tiring and Jody decides to check on the children. She’s shocked to discover all the kids are running riot in the playroom and things are getting rather raucous! 

The family decide to leave to get Grace and Dylan to bed and ask for a car to take them back to the Adriana Beach. Throughout this experience, they’ve felt a bit uncomfortable and uneasy at times and it seems their worst fears are realised when things take a sinister turn …

I don’t want to give away any more of the plot but have to say that I really enjoyed this book! After a slightly slow start, events really ramped up and things got rather exciting and disturbing.

Sam and Jody and the children have to dig deep in a real battle for their survival when things go in a shocking direction, with an unknown enemy!

Overall, this was a gripping and tense thriller and had me on the edge of my seat at times! I was frantically turning the pages to see who would survive! Cleverly plotted and well written, with great suspense, this was an absorbing read! Slightly far fetched at times but it kept me entertained and I’d love to see it turned into a film!

This was the first book of Tom Bale’s that I’d read but I’ve got most of his other novels on my Kindle and will definitely be checking out more from him soon! 

Buy the book

Survive by Tom Bale can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

About the author

Tom Bale was born in Brighton in 1966. While pursuing his lifelong ambition to be a writer he worked in a variety of jobs, but none was as exhausting – or as rewarding – as the several years he spent as a househusband with two pre-school children.

He is the author of nine thrillers, including the bestsellers See How They Run, All Fall Down and Skin and Bones, as well as a young adult sci-fi novel, The Stone Song.

When not writing, he’s usually reading (and eating chocolate). To mull over ideas (and offset the effect of the chocolate), he can often be found cycling the country lanes and coastal routes of Sussex. He is also a keen sea swimmer.

Twitter: @t0mbale
Facebook: @tombalewriter
Website: https://tombale.net


With thanks to Heather Fitt at Bloodhound Books for providing me with an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Apartment Six by Stuart James

Book review


Would you have the courage to escape?

Be careful what you wish for …

When Meagan was five years old her mother was viciously attacked and murdered.

Now an adult, she herself is the victim of an abusive relationship. Meagan is desperate to escape but doesn’t have the courage to leave.

So, when Meagan meets Oliver, a decent guy who is on the rebound after a failed relationship, the two strike up a connection. But when Meagan confesses that her husband is abusive, it leads Oliver down a dark and dangerous path.

Just how far would you go to protect someone?

Oliver is about to find out and be pushed to his very limits …

My review

In the tense opening chapter of the book, we are introduced to five-year-old Meagan who calls 999 after witnessing her parents arguing. She tells the lady on the other end of the phone that her mummy is lying at the bottom of the stairs and isn’t moving and says her daddy did it. She hides in the cupboard when asked to do so and, luckily, the emergency services arrive just in time.

Twenty years later, Meagan repeats the cycle and is in an abusive relationship with controlling husband Rob, who has ‘taken every drop of confidence away … draining her of self-belief with his constant cruel jibes, sarcasm, his sneers and continuous insults.’ She is constantly anxious and on edge, worrying about trivial things like creaking floorboards and the state of the shower, and petrified about what Rob is going to say or do to her if she’s done something that he disapproves of.

Oliver Simmonds, a PA for a high-class law firm in Mayfair, has recently split up from his long-term girlfriend, Claire, with whom he shared an apartment in Chelsea. He meets Meagan on the underground train to work one morning – she’s heading to her job as a nanny – and they slowly get closer and begin an affair. Meagan is covered in cuts and bruises and she confesses to Oliver about how Rob treats her and he witnesses it himself when he follows her home one evening.

Oliver is falling for Meagan and when she asks him to help her escape from Rob, he is so smitten that he fairly readily agrees, even though she keeps hounding him and despite what Meagan is asking him to do. I don’t want to spoil the plot and all the action that follows but I will say that things take an even more sinister turn at this point and there are dire consequences for all concerned.

With flashbacks to the past, we learnt more about Meagan’s difficult toxic childhood with her parents, Tricia and Sean, and we read about the shocking abuse, both physical and mental, that her father carried out on her mother. We’re also introduced to her oldest friend, Sarah, who used to live across the road when they were children and they’re still friends in the present day.

Despite the subject matter, this was an enjoyable but rather terrifying read with lots of misdirection, twists and turns! I had an inkling how things would turn out but I was actually completely wrong! The book was cleverly written and plotted and the characters were well drawn too. None of them could be trusted and I didn’t really like anyone apart from the old lady in Meagan’s building, Mrs Sheehan!

Overall, I really enjoyed this gripping and exciting psychological thriller. There were some really tense, frightening moments and I was holding my breath to see how things turned out. The ending was slightly far fetched but the book was fast paced and very entertaining and I could definitely see this being turned into a film!

I’m looking forward to reading the author’s previous books: I already have Turn the Other Way on my Kindle and I hear The House on Rectory Lane is going to be re-released later this year too.

Buy the book

Apartment Six by Stuart James can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

About the author

Stuart James has always been a fan of scary stories, since a very early age, and loves nothing more than to put pen to paper and develop his terrifying ideas. He is a keen singer/songwriter and sang in a band for 20 years.

He’s an amateur magician, is married with two teenage children and his other hobbies are reading and keeping fit. Stuart currently he lives in Hertfordshire with his family, French Bulldog called Hugo and tabby cat named Amber.

He will always interact with his readers and loves nothing more than receiving messages on social media from people who enjoy his books. He is keen to write for years to come, and his dream is to see one of his thrillers on the small screen. That really would be his dream come true.

Twitter: @StuartJames73
Facebook: @stuartjamesauthor
Website: https://www.stuartjamesthrillers.com

Violet by S.J.I. Holliday

Review for THE Book Club Reviewer Request Group


Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.

Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.

When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.

Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be …

Stranger. Best Friend. Liar.

My review

Violet and Carrie meet in Beijing while they’re both travelling. Violet is alone after splitting up from her boyfriend, Sam, in Bangkok after he decided he just wanted to carry on partying and drinking. Carrie’s friend, Laura, was due to travel with her but had to drop out after breaking her leg.

Carrie has a spare ticket for the Trans-Siberian Express and Violet needs one. It seems like a great coincidence and the women get on really well, at first …

With slightly menacing undertones and hints that all is not as it seems, we’re drawn into the dark and rather reckless side of travelling as Violet and Carrie take risks and drink too much, eat too little, take dodgy drugs, have seedy sexual encounters, and don’t wash enough!

Violet is the main protagonist of the story and we hear her side of the story, interspersed with emails, mainly between Carrie and her friend, Laura.

From the beginning, there are clues that this isn’t your average backpacking story and that both Violet and Carrie are hiding things. Carrie seems to be very trusting and rather gullible. I don’t think I’d trust either of the women – there was something off and dark about both of them!

I really enjoyed this book; the author did an amazing job of making me feel like I was there with Violet and Carrie. It was such a claustrophobic, dangerous, disturbing environment at times and I was caught up with their lies and adventures and felt like I was involved and living everything too! It was also really interesting to find out more about the places they visited and the cultural experiences they had.

It was a very intense and absorbing book and the writing was very descriptive and engaging. I’d definitely recommend this one! I’ve got The Lingering on my Kindle so will be starting that soon, and checking out the rest of Susi’s books too.

Trans-Siberian Railway

Violet’s travels take her from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar then Irkutsk and Moscow and, finally, she flies to Berlin.

Susi provides a fascinating glimpse of the route that Violet and Carrie took with photos in her blog of the actual journey that she made in 2006, as part of a six-month round-the-world trip. See her blog: https://sjihollidayblog.wordpress.com.

Buy the book

Violet by S.J.I. Holliday can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now and in paperback on 14 November, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a scientist, writing coach and the bestselling author of five crime novels, including the Banktoun Trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly), the festive chiller, The Deaths of December, and her creepy Gothic psychological thriller, The Lingering. Her short story ‘Home From Home’ was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize.

Encapsulating her love of travel and claustrophobic settings, her latest novel, Violet, explores toxic friendships and the perils of talking to strangers, as well as drawing on her own journey on the Trans-Siberian Express over 10 years ago.

All of her novels have been UK eBook number-one bestsellers. Susi was born and raised in Scotland and now divides her time between Edinburgh, London and as many other exciting places that she can fit in.

Twitter: @SJIHolliday


Thanks to THE Book Club Reviewer Request Group on Facebook and Orenda Books for my eBook of Violet.