Lipska`s debut novel begins when a girl gets washed up on a banks of the River Thames.The case involves what appears to be a suicide victim otherwise known in police lexicon as a “floater”.The case is given to the reluctant young career climbing detective Natalie Kershaw by her sergeant. DS Bacon, a wonderfully archaic character who would have his picture right next to the “what is an anachronism ?
Sergeant Bacon otherwise known as Streaky to the team; resorts to shouting at people by their surname and barely masks his chauvinism and near the knuckle sexism. This is a character who seemingly forgot that times have changed and so have our policeman, yet bounds along like an extra from a 70`s Brit cop show. Janusz Kiszka is a Polish builder whose gruff exterior belies a man racked with guilt in all its guises; religious, personal and emotional and one often having to pursue a tenuous relationship with religion, often careering between right and wrong but occasionally hitting the skids in trying to live a life of a God fearing; good Catholic, Polish citizen. His priest and surrogate father figure, Father Pietruski, implores the hard man with a heart to find a missing young waitress. He sets out to find the girl and becomes embroiled in the shady underworld of drug selling, encounters with less then pleased thugs, and cold blooded murder.
After a small but important piece of evidence is discovered, following the death of a second young woman,Kershaw is led straight to Janusz`s door and is doggedly convinced that he is certainly involved in her death. During the first moment of questioning, Kershaw offers her polite but bullet like questions to Januz, gently poking and prodding for the truth. It grates and riles him and forces him to recall his grandfather`s proverb “where the devil cant go, he sends a woman”, a back-handed compliment, if ever there was one.
A wonderful cat and mouse relationship then ensues where Janusz the hunter, now becomes the hunted. Aside from well drawn out characters, Lipska demonstrates a knack for producing wonderful moments of deliciously black comedy; scenes that are dark as much as they are wickedly funny. In one part, Janusz and his cohort Oska are on their way to deliver a lead coffin in a van bound for Poland. Oska has been offered 2000 euros to “repatriate” a body to Poland inorder to avoid a proper burial and any awkward questions being asked about the accidental death of the construction worker. Janusz is clearly frustrated by the fact that they are heading to Poland in a van carrying a coffin and running the very probable risk of being caught not with illegal contraband but a lead coffin. “I still don’t understand how come youre an undertaker now ” Janusz shouts. “Business, Janek what else ?” Oska replies.
For fans of criminology and all slavish followers of television dramas such as the excellent BBC drama “Silent Witness” et al, her meticulous police details especially during autopsy scenes make really engaging reading.
The author later dials up the intrigue and pace of the novel and you are pulled into the criminal underworld, leaving you cooking up possible summations and leaving conspiracy theorists frankly cooing with delight. This pacy novel serves up a delicious cocktail of intrigue, murder, and black humour. Personally I would have liked maybe more descriptions of an atmospheric London backdrop, darker urban undertones and an even thicker spread of conspiracy plotting. On a few fleeting occasions the plot line felt a little truncated near the end as Lipska slowly pieces the clues together. However she soon ratchets up the heat once more and gives a barnstormer of an ending that more than adequately delivers. This is a pitch-perfect novel which will have you turning the page in auto-mode. Something tells me that Lipska is set to become the poster-girl for great Polish crime fiction.
Where The Devil Cant Go: Author Anya Lipska. Published by The Friday Project