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.


Crime Fiction Events – February Round-Up

I don’t often update readers of this blog on what I get up to outside my reading activities. However, I’ve been to a few crime fiction events over the last week or so which has brought up things of interest to readers of the genre. There’s a lot going on in the London crime fiction community at the moment which I think you’ll be interested in. Here’s a round-up of what I’ve been up to, with a couple of questions I’d like you to think about thrown in.

Anya Lipska Book Launch

AL doAnya’ s excellent début novel Where the Devil Can’t Go, available for most of last year as an e-book, was published in print by The Friday Project this month, with a launch at Daunt Books in Marylebone. The book was one of my top 5 crime reads last year and I’m delighted that it will be reaching a wider audience. If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly urge you to give it a go. My review is here.

Murder in the Library Exhibition

The British Library has an exhibition on at the moment which is curated around an eclectic A – Z of crime fiction. I’m sure there were some interesting discussions as the team decided who or what to put under each letter.  There were a few notable omissions (where was Ruth Rendell?) but it made for a thought provoking visit. A highlight for me was the original 1926 manuscript of the Sherlock Holmes short story The Adventure of the Retired Colourman. If you can get along to the exhibition before it finishes in May I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

The Story of Crime Fiction BL event

An event at the British Library to complement the above exhibition featured a panel moderated by Mark Lawson with crime writers PD James, Henry Sutton and Jason Webster. The authors discussed who had been an influence on their own works – which brought up an interesting mix of writers including Dorothy L Sayers, Jospehine Tey, Micahel Didbin and and Raymond Chandler. A wide-ranging conversation ensued with one rather contentious point made. The panel agreed that in general women writers find it easier to create male characters, while male crime writers largely are unable to write convincing female protagonists.

Do you agree? I thought about this afterwards and an example I would use to argue against this would be Adrian Hyland’s Emily Tempest. However, the fact that I’m struggling to come up with many more suggests this is the exception that proves the rule. Does anyone have any other examples?

Italian Crime Fiction

Belgravia Books, a great bookshop about five minutes walk from Victoria station, hosted an event to celebrate Italian Crime Fiction last Thursday. Writer and journalist Barry Forshaw was in conversation with Ilaria Meliconi , the founder of Hersilia Press to explore the genre from Visconti to Camilleri. The interesting discussion encompassed both books and films and I especially enjoyed the comparisons of the TV series of Montalbano and the Camilleri novels.Belgravia Books event

Italian (and other Mediterranean) crime fiction doesn’t enjoy the popularity of its Scandinavian counterpart in this country. It was posited that perhaps the British psyche identifies more with Scandinavia than with Mediterranean countries. I think this is almost certainly true – but hasn’t stopped British readers enjoying the books of other hot climes such as Tony Hillerman or Adrian Hyland. Any suggestions as to why that might be the case?

So some interesting events and there are more in the pipeline. It’s always great to meet in person people I only know through their blogs or on twitter. And apologies for the terrible photos to accompany this post. Photographing these events usually involves me waving my iphone in a shamefaced way while the discussion is taking place. The next morning I’m usually dismayed by the quality of the result – for obvious reasons. I do promise to try harder.