When masked men brutally stab one of his closest friends to death, Janusz Kiszka – fixer to East London’s Poles – must dig deep into London’s criminal underbelly to track down the killers and deliver justice.
Shadowing a beautiful Ukrainian girl he believes could solve the mystery, Kiszka soon finds himself skating dangerously close to her ruthless ‘businessman’ boyfriend. Meanwhile, his old nemesis, rookie police detective Natalie Kershaw is struggling to identify a mystery suicide, a Pole who jumped off the top of Canary Wharf Tower. But all is not what it seems…
Sparks fly as Kiszka and Kershaw’s paths cross for a second time, but they must call a truce when their separate investigations call for a journey to Poland’s wintry eastern borders…
After bursting onto the British crime fiction scene last year with her perfectly hewed debut Where The Devil Can’t Go, it is a delight to be immersed once more in Lipska’s interweaving of Polish and British culture in this thoroughly enjoyable follow-up. Oh- and watch out for those twists- they’ll get you every time….
One of the strongest features of Lipska’s debut was the relationship developed between Janusz Kiszka, the grouchy Polish PI with his unique brand of tough guy underscored by a heart of gold, and ambitious young detective Natalie Kershaw. This novel drives the development of this relationship further as once again their individual investigations overlap, with the murder of one of Kiszka’s closest friends, and a mysterious death in Docklands that proves to be no common suicide, necessitating a sojourn to Poland for our unlikely crime fighting partners. As the story develops, Lipska injects an enjoyable smattering of the more personal issues affecting the pair, with Kershaw on the cusp of moving in with her partner and fellow police officer, Ben, and Kiszka falling under the spell with a European gangster’s mole, the mysterious femme fatale Varenka. To my great delight, outside of their own investigations and affairs of the heart, Death Can’t Take A Joke, also re-introduces Kiszka’s friend, the ebullient Oskar, who lights up every scene he appears in with his blunt charm, and less than politically correct behaviour. His interactions with the more taciturn Kiszka are once again a joy to behold, as Oskar ingratiates himself into Kiszka’s pursuit of Varenka’s lover in his own Polish Keystone Cop style. I think that even if you are coming to this book as a new reader, the strength and natural style of Lipska’s characterisation will instantly draw you into the characters and the different worlds they inhabit.
As with the first book, I was once again exceedingly impressed with the fluidity of Lipska’s writing style from the unfolding of the plot and the twists contained within, the free-flowing dialogue and the seamless insertion of the Polish vernacular. Although, there is less concentration on the strands of Polish history, so prevalent and effective in the first book, the reader is completely absorbed in this mix of two cultures, and how these cultures shape the main protagonists. Likewise, Lipska’s manipulation of pace and plot made this is a book that was extremely hard to put down, and I was grabbing any spare minute to delve back into the plot, but without losing any sense of where the story was up to, or what had happened just previously.
So as you can gather, I quite enjoyed this book. Great characters, a compelling plot, and a skilful blend of pathos and humour that not only captured the gritty side of the immigrant experience in London, but evinced all the essential components of a solid police procedural. Genialny odczytu!
Here is an excerpt from Death Can’t Take A Joke for your delectation and delight…
If I don’t hang on I will die. My fingers are curled into claws. So cold and numb they feel like they’re frozen to the ledge. The blackness comes … recedes again, but leaves only panic and confusion. Is this high, freezing place a mountaintop? I don’t remember climbing it. But then I can’t even recall my name right now above the wind’s howl.
Memories flicker out of the darkness like fragments caught on celluloid, briefly illuminated. A door made of plastic. A man in orange overalls. The insolent swish of something heavy through the air. Ducking – too late.
I try to brace my legs, to keep from falling. But the tremors are so bad, they’re useless. In a blinding surge of rage I vow: Somebody’s going to die for this. Then a great wind screams in my face and tears my fingers from their grip.
And I realise the somebody is me.
Detective Constable Natalie Kershaw sat on the outdoor terrace of Starbucks in the lee of the Canary Wharf tower, treating herself to an overpriced and underpowered cappuccino. In her chalk stripe trousers and black wool jacket she could have passed for another of the City workers getting their early morning fix of caffeine.
Kershaw was celebrating the last day of her secondment to Docklands nick: the stint in financial crime would look good on her CV, but after three months navigating the murky channels of international money laundering, she was gagging to get back to some proper police work. And not just the routine stuff – the credit card frauds, street robberies and domestic violence that had dominated her career so far. No. In two days’ time she’d finally become what she’d first set her sights on at the age of fourteen – a detective on Murder Squad.
Drinking the last of her coffee, she shivered. Despite the morning sun a chill hung in the air, and a light icing on her car windscreen that morning had signalled the first frost of autumn.
As she stood to go, something drew her gaze towards the glittering bulk of the tower less than twenty metres away.
Suddenly, she ducked: an instinctive reflex. The impression of something dark, flapping, the chequerboard windows of the tower flickering behind it like a reel of film. Then a colossal whump, followed by the sound of imploding glass and plastic. There was a split second of absolute silence before a woman at the next table started screaming, a thin high keening that bounced off the impassive facades of the high-rise office blocks surrounding the café.
Fuck! Kershaw took off running towards the site of the impact – a long dark limo parked nearby that had probably been waiting to pick someone up. There was a metre-wide crater in its roof and the windscreen lay shattered across the bonnet like imitation diamonds. She could hear an inanely cheery jingle still playing on the radio. The car was empty, the guy she presumed to be the driver standing just a few metres away, still holding the fag he’d left the car to smoke. His stricken gaze was fixed on the man-sized dent in the car roof – the spot where his head would have been moments earlier. Kershaw filed it away as a rare case of a cigarette extending someone’s life.
Three or four metres beyond the limo, the falling man lay where he had come to rest, in a slowly spreading lake of his own blood. He’d fallen face down, his overcoat spread either side of him like the unfurled wings of an angel. By some quirk of physics or anatomy, the fall had twisted his head around by almost 180 degrees, so that his half-closed eyes appeared to be gazing up at the wall of glass and concrete, as if calculating how many floors he had fallen.
Anya Lipska is married to a Pole who lived under Communism before coming to Britain in the early Eighties. Originally trained as a journalist, Anya now writes and produces documentaries and drama documentaries. She has worked on an eclectic range of programmes from Panorama to Scrapheap Challenge, with a rich mix of subject matter, from Leonardo da Vinci to plane crashes, paleo-anthropology to Italian gardens with Monty Don. Lipska is a pen name since, as Anya says “My real surname is impossible to pronounce…” Visit www.wherethedevilcantgo.com and Anya writes an occasional blog on The Literary Platform . You can also follow Anya Lipska on Twitter @AnyaLipska.
Read Raven’s review of the first book in the series: Where The Devil Cant Go
(With thanks to Nic Forster at LightBrigadePR for the ARC)