Review: Where the Devil Can't Go by Anya Lipska

Wednesday 10 June 2015
Title: Where the Devil Can't Go
Author: Anya Lipska
Publisher: The Friday Project
Publication Date: 7th February 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 423
ISBN: 9780007504589
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5/5
Purchase: Amazon
A naked girl has washed up on the banks of the River Thames. The only clue to her identity is a heart-shaped tattoo encircling two foreign names. Who is she – and why did she die?

Life’s already complicated enough for Janusz Kiszka, unofficial 'fixer' for East London’s Polish community: his priest has asked him to track down a young waitress who has gone missing; a builder on the Olympics site owes him a pile of money; and he’s falling for married Kasia, Soho’s most strait-laced stripper. But when Janusz finds himself accused of murder by an ambitious young detective, Natalie Kershaw, and pursued by drug dealing gang members, he is forced to take an unscheduled trip back to Poland to find the real killer.

In the mist-wreathed streets of his hometown of Gdansk, Janusz must confront painful memories from the Soviet past if he is to uncover the conspiracy – and with it, a decades-old betrayal.

Some of my favourite bloggers have highly recommended Anya Lipska's books and so I couldn't resist picking up Where the Devil Can't Go when I saw it staring at me on the shelf at my local library. I was excited but a little apprehensive; I am a crime fiction reader that likes things quite simple as opposed to a story which is more political. But, if anything, that element of the story was quite gripping, and has left me wanting to learn more about Poland and its history.

I enjoyed the scene-setting introduction, and our introduction to 'fixer' for the Polish community Janusz Kiszka. Anya Lipska doesn't shy away from building a believable and realistic picture of immigrant life, and in terms of authenticity it reminded me of Barbara Nadel's novels set in the East End which focus on the Muslim community. Janusz is an intriguing character and it was fascinating to see the world through his eyes, as an immigrant who has lived in London for some years, he is often able to reflect on things from both sides of the coin as opposed to that cliched portrayal of immigration that we have sometimes read about in the past.

Janusz finds himself being asked to look into the disappearance of a young waitress, and rather that it just being a straightforward disappearance he soon finds himself having to return to his homeland which is difficult for him in itself given his history. There he must uncover a conspiracy; at the same time confronting some painful memories from the Soviet past, revealing a decades-old betrayal. The historical element here is brilliantly done, and beautifully researched. I can't say all that much about it, and there are more analytical reviews out there, but it is a particularly poignant story in places and it does give the book that edge over its counterparts.

Ambitious young detective Natalie Kershaw is another character we meet in the story and she is tasked with looking into a murder and her investigations lead her to Janusz. Not trusting the police he does of course appear to be a somewhat mysterious character to Kershaw and so for the most part they carry out their own investigations separate from the other before ultimately being driven together. It would be a wasted task for potential readers to try and work out how things will play out as you read but instead, take some comfort in the fact that for the most part our two characters are just as clueless. With scope for plenty of twists and turns in this story, Anya takes full advantage of that delivering a tale that keeps you guessing the whole way through. I am fond of female detectives in crime fiction and Kershaw was a breath of fresh air to read about, not without issues of her own she is portrayed as a believable character.

Not wanting to list everyone that we meet I will say that one character in particular that stood out and who I can discuss without spoilers was Oskar who when together with Janusz on the page brings some much needed humour to the story with their unique and fascinating partnership. The closing chapters in particular left me excited to see how the story will develop further in Death Can't Take a Joke. There is an eclectic mix of characters in the book, all of whom have something to add. For a debut novel Where the Devil Can't Go is quite remarkable, and I spent the second half of the book hoping that the ending delivered would be as good as everything that came before. It was, and then some. I turned the last page and then spent some time reflecting on the story I had just read, knowing it would remain in my memory for quite a while. Not a book to miss if you haven't already picked it up.


1 comment:

  1. Ha, knew we'd win you round! Some great literature about immigrants and alternative points of view being written by women writers - Lipska, Nadel herself, as you mention, also Eva Dolan...


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