Friday, April 27, 2012

Review of Where the Devil Can’t Go by Anya Lipska (Tadeusz Books, 2011)

Janusz Kiszka left Poland for London in the 1980s, disillusioned and grief-stricken.  Thirty years later he’s a respected member of the Polish community, dabbling in the shadier side of life to make ends meet and keeping an eye on the new generation of migrants to the city.  When a priest asks him to find a young waitress that’s gone missing he reluctantly agrees to try and track her down.  Without knowing it, he’s let himself in for a whole heap of trouble.  Part of that trouble is DC Natalie Kershaw, a newly promoted cop who’s ambitious, spiky and prone to jumping to conclusions.  She’s been assigned the task of identifying a naked girl fished from the River Thames and tracking down her killer.  She soon has Janusz in her sights, though it seems the answers to both their mysteries actually lie in Poland.

Where the Devil Can’t Go is a competently written thriller with a political subtext.  The strength of the book is the sense of place and community relations in London, the characterisation of Janusz and Kershaw, and interweaving of the two main plots as they twist round each other and intersect.  The writing is generally engaging, though the plot was a little uneven, with the first half of the book stronger than the second.  The first half was very good and demonstrated Lipska’s undoubted talent as a writer.  However, the time in Poland was a little rushed and underdeveloped, and the rise to the climax somewhat contrived.  It’s difficult to discuss the ending without giving spoilers, but in the age of photocopiers, scanners, the internet, smart phones and so on the set-up played weakly and undermined credibility.  Overall, an enjoyable read that will appeal to police procedural fans looking for something slightly different to normal fare.


Maxine Clarke said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this, on the whole. I agree that the first half is stronger. I liked the fact that the victim in the river was not who you were led to believe it was going to be. The "thriller climax" was the weakest part for me, but on the whole I thought this an extremely competent crime novel that compares very well with much of the dross that gets published by a publishing company (rather than by the author herself as here).

Sarah said...

I have this to read on my kindle so I won't comment until I've read it. But I like the idea of a setting in the Polish community.