Book Review: Death Visits January by Fiona Sherlock


  • Title: Death Visits January
  • Author: Fiona Sherlock
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Mystery (I won’t call it cozy because there’s a bit more graphic detail than in most cozies I’ve read)
  • Would I recommend: Yes

When a local farmer announces on social media that he has discovered a ‘bog body’ in Ardee, experts are keen to explore the secrets of the life and grisly death of the victim.

Antique journalist January Quail is fighting to keep her newspaper job and gets involved. But she uncovers far more than she bargained for. The ‘bog body’ turns out to be a recent murder, and January uses her nose for the truth to investigate the County Louth town. From shopkeeper to publican, everyone is a suspect but, when the gardaí can’t find the killer, can she?

Once she sets down her liqueur glass, January gains the confidence of the lead Garda investigator. Within days, the case unravels into a much more dangerous situation with a killer on the loose.

Despite the risk, January is electrified, as this newest discovery has come at the perfect time to inject some colour into her flailing career. She relinquishes her old ways to fight for survival, abandoning her antiques column and vintage corsets to solve a cryptic crime that has the experts puzzled.

My review:

Print journalism is struggling, and January is trying not to lose her job. (She’s also in the running for an editorial position, which confused me a bit. Which is it – is she editor material, or is she going to get the sack?) So when a “bog body” is found, she dashes off to get a story. When it turns out that the body isn’t ancient, but a much more recent victim of foul play, she leaves her warm and fuzzy lifestyle articles behind to dig into this murder. She gets herself into some scrapes along the way, as the killer intends on making her his next victim.

This book is set in modern times, but it doesn’t always feel that way. January Quail comes from a family of means. The family may have fallen on hard times, but her manners and attitude seem to be very much of another era.

This is clearly reflected in her refusal to use technology to draft and send information to her editor. I used to work for someone who didn’t believe in using computers. We attorneys had access to a computer in the law library for legal research, but we did not have our own computers in our offices. We drafted our legal opinions with pen and legal pad, and our paralegal typed it up. That’s what I thought of when January kept writing out her articles and sending pictures of them back to the office. It made me nuts in my life, and it made me nuts reading about it. I kept thinking, will you just get a laptop already?! I have a hard time envisioning an employer going along with that situation for too long.

January also drinks. A lot. Her poison of choice is the liqueur creme de menthe. She actually carries around a glass for drinking it. I’m pretty sure she could be described as a functioning alcoholic. She seldom gets drunk, but the craving for a drink is constant.

The crime itself was fascinating. I wasn’t familiar with bog bodies before reading this book, and it was interesting (and a bit gruesome) to read about the process by which bodies were prepared for the bog. It’s certainly a unique method of murder that I haven’t read about before! The mystery was also pretty engaging. There were plenty of options for a potential killer in the Irish village near the crime scene, and I was kept guessing until fairly far along in the book.

January may have been an intriguing character, but she was hard to like. She was in danger of losing her job, but didn’t seem to make getting stories in to the paper a priority. She put herself in harm’s way more than once, she didn’t listen to her editor when he told her to leave things alone, and she seemed to be more interested in doing what she wanted to do than in handling her job responsibilities. I get that sometimes it’s good to buck the system, but January took tha to a whole new level.

So, five stars for the Irish setting (which was a lot of fun!) and the twisty mystery, three stars for a not-so-likable protagonist, and that averages out to four. A good read.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from BookSirens. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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