‘Preserved’ by Fiona Sherlock – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

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January Quail swirled her bright green liqueur, washing the last vestiges of the mint drink through the crushed ice. Anyone could pop in for a drink or two on her own, accompanied by the paper or a good book. A third créme de menthe solo was a line she did not cross. However, getting all but sacked seemed like a reasonable excuse.

Two raised fingers summoned a double. Her role as Features Editor could be terminated at the end of the month, if she didn’t up her act. Alf had announced a number of drastic editorial changes as part of the newspaper’s bit to remain profitable. She could reinterview for another, more junior, reporter jobs in a few weeks, if she could demonstrate her ability to drive traffic to the website in the interim. The whole thing seemed barely legal. She blinked in rapid succession to push back the tears attempting to break through. Don’t think about it, she chastised herself.

Synopsis –

When a local farmer announces on social media that he has discovered a bog body in Ardee, the world’s historians 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 uncovers far more than she bargained for. The victim is actually a recent murder, and January uses her nose for the truth to investigate the County Louth town. From shopkeeper to the publican, everyone is a suspect, but when the Gardai can’t find the killer, can January?

Once she sets down the 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 that this newest discovery has come at the perfect time to inject some colour into her flailing career. January 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. This woman who longs to lives in the past must now fight for her life in the present.

Thoughts –

A uniquely Irish murder mystery, Preserved takes the reader on a journey through a modern Ireland still clasping on tightly to its past, and who better than to hold our hand, than the eccentric January Quail. A woman of particular tastes including chewing tobacco and creme de menthe, January is a journalist who specializes in antiques of both the homeware and human kind – namely bog bodies. And when not one, but two bodies are found not far from where she grew up in a lavish Protestant estate, January is on the case discovering that perhaps these bodies are not as old as they look.

Sherlock’s writing is adept and interweaving. She captures the idiosyncrasies of rural Ireland on the page perfectly, from nonsensical nicknames, to the ever more intricate relationships that can do nothing more than obscure and confuse a murder investigation. The character of January Quail is certainly unique. A luddite struggling in a career that won’t survive with just a paper and pen, January does not make things easy for herself either in her work, or in her non-existent love life. Not only is she holding onto the past through her vintage attire and interests, she is also struggling to let go of the painful memories of her childhood and adolescence.

Preserved is a novel about the past and the future merging, about our inability to fully escape from the mistakes and pains of our pasts, and a seedy underbelly of individuals who long for infamy in the most horrific of ways. This is a murder mystery that will have you clinging on to the very last page.

Preserved will have you reaching for the creme de menthe, and wondering darkly about every bog you see.

About the Author –

Fiona Sherlock is a crime writer from Bective, in Ireland. Her murder mystery games are played across the world. She also writes poetry and prose but cannot stay away from a good murder. After spending a decade in Dublin working in public relations and journalism, she moved to the country for midday fires and elderflower champagne. You can find her through her website here or on Twitter and Instagram @fionasherlock

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘Sour Candy’ by Kealan Patrick Burke – Review

*I bought this book of my own volition because the cover looked cool and I want to read more Irish horror*

 

Remembering his first and only encounter with the woman prior to the accident summoned once ore dear for the well being of the child and he looked past the woman to the young man by the car, who looked back at him and gave a shrug and a single shake of his head. 

No kid here, buddy. 

Phil swallowed and looked up into the terrible face of the wounded woman as she loomed over him. He was too weak to defend himself, too dazed to understand all that had happened in the past few minutes, and was happening still. Somewhere along the line his life had jumped the tracks and he had found himself in a nightmare, and like the worst kind of nightmare, he could not move, the people around him too busy chatting, redirecting traffic, or filming the scene with their iPhone to realize the very real and possibly dangerous drama taking place on the edge of it. 

The woman looked down at him. This close he could see that the side of her face was swelling, darkening, and her lower lip had split almost down to the cleft in her chin, exposing the dots of blood on her gums. Nausea rose in her chest and he prayed he wouldn’t vomit, for surely the violence of her response would further aggravate his own injuries. 

“Don’t,” was all the self-defense he could muster. 

“Yours now,” the woman said.

 

Synopsis

Phil Pendleton is in Walmart buying some candy for his girlfriend. There’s an irritating child and an exhausted mother getting on his nerves so he leaves… and they follow. Soon, Phil finds that he has no girlfriend, a child that isn’t his though no one will believe him, and a new diet that consists entirely of sour candy. Phil has to decide whether he should accept this new bizarre and forced fatherhood, or figure out who or what this child is, and how to get his old life back.

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So the first thing you need to know about this book is that it is a tiny book. Maybe I didn’t read the description properly when I was buying it but I assumed it was a full sized novel, but it is actually a slim novella, clocking in at just seventy-four pages long.

 

Once I got over that however, I found the initial diving into the story to be irresistible. I’m a sucker for catchy taglines and as you can see in the picture above, ‘Four months to the day he first encountered the boy at Walmart, the last of Phil Pendleton’s teeth fell out.’, hooked me immediately. Not to mention the great cover design – it may seem disjointed between a skull and the name ‘Sour Candy’, however it works and gives the book a dark and gritty look.

 

Instantly I was made uncomfortable as soon as the child showed up. The anxiety was instant and ever increasing as myself and Phil realised that his new reality was not something he could simply explain his way out of. ‘Sour Candy’ is a story of altered reality, terrifying and creepy children, and the horror of an all sugar diet. It’s short, sour, and will stay with you long after you’ve closed those pages. It was a story that sounded unique to me, I’d never heard the like of it before and that’s why I bought it. I wanted to try out Burke’s writing and this one grabbed me fully, my money pretty much walking out of my pocket itself.

I found the story to be well paced and enthralling, a little strange and bizarre however Burke works the story well, keeping the surrealism to a minimum for most of the novella but packing a punch with the reveal of what is really happening. Now, the ‘creatures’ that exact their torture on Phil aren’t fully explained so there are a few questions to roll around your skull once you’ve finished the story, but I didn’t feel cheated out of an answer, it much better suits the story keep the mystery intact. ‘Sour Candy’ is an unsettling story that would easily slot into an episode of The Twilight Zone.

I can say honestly that I would be happy to purchase another one of Burke’s books in the future.

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I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Sour Candy’ as an anxiety inducing nightmare of the worst proportions. Being stuck with an inter-dimensional child to look after and having no evidence to show they aren’t mine, all with that horrific fuzzy teeth feeling that too much sugar gives you, hits me right where it hurts. Burke manages to keep you enthralled in the story, throwing you right in the deep end with Phil and his inevitable and inescapable new reality. It is a short, sharp read that leaves you feeling incredibly relieved that you are not in fact Phil. An uncomfortable story of insidious and unstoppable creatures outside our realm of imagination. This novella will make you uncomfortable, nauseous, and even claustrophobic. I do recommend.

 

About the Author – 

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Kealan Patrick Burke is an Irish author currently living in Ohio, America. He has many acclaimed works and in 2004 was awarded a Bram Stoker for his novella The Turtle Boy. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Links to Buy:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

 

Have you been infested by a parasitic child that isn’t yours? Have your teeth fallen out due to excessive sour sweet consumption? Do you know how to get sugar out of the pages of a novella? Let me know down below!

 

If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact! And don’t forget to follow for more reviews and musings on writing.