Lipska, Anya - 'Where the Devil Can't Go'
Janusz Kiszka is the fixer for London's Poles, 'wheeling and dealing' amongst the city's drinking dens and the contractors on the Olympic park. He's a former boy-conscript in the Polish army, who dropped out of University to join Solidarity, and was part of an earlier wave of the Polish migration to London. Now he is 'one of the best-connected people in London's Polonia'.
Janusz is asked by his priest to find a missing waitress called Weronika, 'as innocent as a lamb', and takes the case assuming he will find she has gone off with some unsuitable boy. She has, but the boy sounds much worse than unsuitable, and Janusz is soon convinced that Weronika desperately needs his help.
Meanwhile, DC Natalie Kershaw, an ambitious young detective hoping for her first big case, believes she has found it when a 'floater' pulled out of the Thames turns out to have been dosed with counterfeit ecstasy. A tattoo on the girl's body marks her out as Polish.
The two cases converge in a story which takes Janusz back to Poland and links back to the events of the Solidarity era.
Janusz's sections of the story have more novelty than Natalie's. The backdrop of the Polish diaspora makes for an interesting read and a new perspective on London, whereas the police are the more usual (but let's face it, probably realistic) mix of blokes, banter and bureaucracy.
Anya Lipska's prose is reader-friendly and her characters make for engaging company. Some of the most interesting scenes are the meetings between Natalie and Janusz, initially exposing their prejudices: Polish thug vs harmless girl. The narrative viewpoint often switches line-by-line:
She drank her coffee, Streaky had told her once that silence was the most underrated weapon in an interrogation.
There are some good one-liners - 'as welcome as a Russian son-in-law' made me laugh - and additional comic relief is supplied by Janusz's boisterous old army buddy Oskar and Natalie's Sergeant 'Streaky' Bacon. Grit is provided by frank descriptions of the dead, a very hands-on gangster, and by an unpleasant and long-buried secret.
This is billed as the first Kiszka and Kershaw novel - I look forward to the next instalment.
Read another review of WHERE THE DEVIL CAN'T GO.
Rich Westwood, England