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.

 

Harrogate Crime Writing Festival #2

A second post on the crime writing festival that took place in Harrogate last week-end. I had been looking forward to the New Blood AL photopanel and I wasn’t disappointed. Moderated by Val McDermid, it featured the talented Anya Lispka along with other debut writers Derek B Miller, Colette McBeth and Malcolm Mackay. The writers gave a brief overview of their books and what had prompted them to write within the crime fiction genre. What was interesting was not all the writers set out to write a crime novel but were influenced by the conventions of the genre that allowed them to tell the story they wanted to write. The authors also shared with us their journey to publication and the ups and downs of a writer’s life. A fascinating panel and a must-see for me every year. Anya can be seen with her fellow panelists standing on the far left of the photo.

Much of the rest of the festival involved me catching up with friends I’ve met over the years who are too numerous to mention here and I run the risk of missing someone out. All I can say that it was great catching up with you all. Crime writers, readers, bloggers and reviewers are some of the friendliest people I know and I’ve made some great friends.

Saturday evening at Harrogate is marked by the crime fiction quiz. This year I was on the stellar team featuring writers Martin Edwards, Paul Johnston, Margaret Murphy, Linda Stratmann and Martin’s agent James Wills. With a team of such calibre you would expect a decent ranking. Well, we came second. Next year maybe….