Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Where the Devil can't go - Anya Lipska

'He was engulfed by an extraordinary sensation, as if his body were physically unravelling from the back of his throat down to the pit of his stomach, while his mind floated up and watched the scene from above, a disinterested observer.'

Janusz Kiszka has lived in London for over twenty years, and is a 'fixer', a man who can investigate matters for you, he is 'one of the best-connected people in London's Polonia', and several people amongst the Polish community in the East End of London have asked him to help them out. A waitress has gone missing, and Janusz’s priest asks him to help find her. His romantic life is far from straightforward, enamoured as he is by Kasia, an educated married woman working as a stripper; Janusz cares deeply about her and wishes her life were better. When Janusz starts looking into the waitress’s disappearance, he discovers a lot more than he bargained for. As he tries to uncover the truth, he returns to Poland, which further reawakens painful old memories for him. The impending presidential election back in Poland is an undercurrent to the main story. 

Meanwhile, young, keen female Detective Constable Natalie Kershaw is trying to discover the identity of the body that has been recovered from the Thames, with a heart-shaped tattoo the only identifying feature on the girl’s body. Then another young woman is found dead in a hotel room.

The narrative alternates in focus from Janusz to DC Kershaw and back as the storyline develops. I found Janusz believable and likeable. He is a strong but kind man, 'a private detective, not some murdering thug.' There is a sadness and regret about his past. His faith is long-held, and despite questioning some aspects of it, he has never forgotton how Father Piotr Pietruzki helped him when he was young man, and to him 'the Church felt like the last remaining pillar of the old Poland, a place where respect and honour were valued above all else.' Through Janusz we have a view of how England seems to have changed over the last twenty years or so, from an immigrant's perspective. His friend Oskar is an entertaining and mischievous character. 

I also liked DC Kershaw, and admired her dogged determination to find the truth in the underbelly of London's Polish, and tough it out despite the way some of her colleagues spoke to her. 'Giving - and taking - good banter was about bonding, fitting in, being part of a unit. If you couldn't take friendly abuse from fellow cops you were finished, game over.' Her boss, DS 'Streaky' Bacon, is very much of the outdated old school method of policing, but Kershaw realises that 'you needed a thick skin to be in the job' and 'she'd rather keep her mouth shut and get on with it.' Additionally he isn't all bad, she thinks: 'Streaky might be a dinosaur in a bad suit, but occasionally he showed signs of being a good cop.' Eventually Janusz and Natalie meet, initially because to her he is a suspect. Her first impressions of him give us a further insight into his complex character. It becomes evident that the knowledge held by Janusz and the facts DC Kershaw has at her disposal could be combined and that if they were to begin to share what they know with each other, they might just get to the heart of these killings. 

This is a compelling thriller with an intricate plotline that kept me hooked throughout, with twists, genuine tension, some nerve-wracking action scenes and other surprises. It is a murder mystery story that also involves political intrigue, making for an intelligent and involving read that kept me turning the pages, with several strands to the story that are all cleverly weaved together by the author. The depiction of the contrasting areas of London, the gritty, seedy world we don't all see, rings true. I learned about the beauty of Poland, and about recent history there, and there is a scattering of Polish language throughout which adds to the authenticity. This book is well-written and researched, and well thought out for a debut. If you are looking for an involving, fresh murder mystery story, do give this one a read. I hope it will be picked up by a UK publisher. I would love to read another mystery featuring these characters. 

Self-published novel in the UK, available in ebook format. 
To be published by Random House Germany in December 2012.

You can follow the author on twitter @anyalipska and visit the website for the book here

Thank you to the author for kindly providing an ebook of this novel to read and give an honest review.



  1. Wow Lindsay, great review and I love the cover of this one. Thanks for suggesting it!

    1. Thanks Linn. It's a really good read, and amazingly is 99p!


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