Review: Anya Lipska – Death Can’t Take a Joke

It’s taken a while for me to get around to this book which is a shame as it turned out to be an excellent read. I very much Death-Cant-Take-A-Jokeenjoyed Lipska’s debut novel, Where the Devil Can’t Go, and read it first as an e-book before it was published in the UK by The Friday Project. Death Can’t Take a Joke is an even better novel that once more gives us a slice of Polish ex-pat life.

Janusz Kiszka, a stalwart of the London Polish ex-pat community, is shocked to hear of the death of his married friend, especially when a beautiful young woman lays flowers in front of his house. He discovers that the young girl, Varenka, is the lover of a wealthy Romanian whose life has been characterised by hardship and brutality. Meanwhile, Detective Natalie Kershaw is investigating the death of a man who appears to have fallen off the top of the Canary Wharf Tower. Her investigation leads to her crossing paths once more with Kiszka and being forced to accept his help as a translator.

The books in this series are dark tales of urban London and detail the squabbles and rivalries that characterise the expat communities from Eastern Europe, even when people have become wealthy. Kiszka is the star of the series, intelligent while capable of violence to protect himself and his friends. More is made in this book of the underlying attraction between Kiszka and Kershaw although both are in relationships, albeit shaky ones. The truth behind the two deaths turns out to be a surprise for readers, for differing reasons, and I’d forgotten how well the author keeps the reader guessing until the conclusion.

This is a series going from strength to strength and the subtleties of interaction between the characters is improving with each book. It would be nice to see the relationship between the two protagonists reach a conclusion, whatever that might be. Perhaps we’ll get this in the next instalment.

Thanks to The Friday Project for my review copy.


12 thoughts on “Review: Anya Lipska – Death Can’t Take a Joke

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – So glad you enjoyed this. I, too, think the series is really getting good. And I agree about LIpska’s ability to keep the reader guessing. She’s good at that.


  2. Me too, haven’t read the first one but I have it, at least. I am sure I will enjoy reading about the Polish community in London and I have heard good things about both books. I am glad you are also of that opinion.


  3. Sarah,
    Crime novels set in and around East Europeans and their conclaves in London sound fascinating. I’ll look into this book and this author. I’m suffering terribly from the “too many books” syndrome this summer. But I’m adding this to my list.
    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)


    1. Sarah, I just purchased the first book, Where the Devil Can’t Go, after reading your review of it, for just 99 cents for my Kindle. Looks like I might be reading it sooner rather than later. Thanks!


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