Recommended Read: Death Can’t Take A Joke by Anya Lipska

death can't take a jokeWhen London based Polish private eye Janusz Kiszka’s close  friend is violently murdered, he decides to track down those responsible. Meanwhile, Detective Natalie Kershaw is trying to find  out the identity of  an apparent suicide victim. As in Lipska’s previous novel, Where The Devil Can’t Go, their investigations collide.

The second  Kiszka & Kershaw crime thriller is even better than the first. The plotting is as tight as a snare drum, the characters are realistic and likable,  the dialogue is sharp.  Gripping, gritty but never grim, Death Can’t Take A Joke  is also very funny, the humour coming naturally from the well-drawn characters’ interactions.

Great stuff.

Death Can’t Take A Joke by Anya Lipska: Excerpt.

Death Can't Take A Joke PB 2.inddOne of my favourite crime fiction novels of 2012 was Anya Lipska‘s debut WHERE THE DEVIL CAN’T GO, which introduced the characters of  Janusz Kiszka- a fixer/ unofficial private eye in London’s Polish community- and rookie cop D C Natalie Kershaw.

You can read what I had to say about WHERE THE DEVIL CAN’T GO here.

Well, Kiszka and Kershaw are back in Anya Lipska’s latest  crime thriller DEATH CAN’T TAKE A JOKE, which is available as a paperback, eBook and audio-book.

And you can read an extract here:

In this scene, private eye Janusz Kiszka is at his murdered friend’s house when he sees a mystery woman leaving flowers outside in tribute…

Janusz gazed out of the bay window that framed the tiny front garden and flower-strewn wall like a tableau. Through the half-closed slats of the blinds a young woman came into view, slowing to a halt in front of the wall. She stooped to lay something, and he saw her lips moving, as though in silent prayer. There was something about her that caught his attention. It wasn’t just that, even half-obscured, she was strikingly beautiful; it was the powerful impression that the sadness on her face and in the slope of her shoulders seemed more profound – more personal – than might be expected from a neighbour or casual acquaintance of the dead man.

‘Basia,’ he growled in an undertone. ‘Do you recognise that girl?’

Basia frowned out through the blinds, shook her head. Outside, the girl bent her head in a respectful gesture, crossed herself twice, and turned to leave.

Driven by some instinct he couldn’t explain, Janusz leapt up from the sofa and, telling Basia that he’d phone to check on Marika later, let himself out of the front door. The girl had nestled a new bouquet among the other offerings, but her expensive-looking hand-tied bunch of cream calla lilies and vivid blue hyacinths stood out from the surrounding cellophane-sheafed blooms. After checking that there was no accompanying note or card, he scanned up and down the street. Empty. Crossing to the other side of the road, he was rewarded by the sight of the girl’s slender figure a hundred metres away, walking towards the centre of Walthamstow.

Gradually, he closed the gap to around fifty metres. By a stroke of luck, a young guy carrying an architect’s portfolio case had emerged from a garden gate ahead of him so that if the girl happened to glance behind she’d be unlikely to spot Janusz. From the glimpses he got he could see that, even allowing for the vertiginous heels, she was tall for a woman, her graceful stride reminiscent of a catwalk model’s.

The girl passed the churchyard that marked the seventeenth-century heart of Walthamstow Village, where the breeze threw a handful of yellow leaves in her wake like confetti, but she didn’t take the tiny passageway that led down to the tube as Janusz had half expected, heading instead for Hoe Street. Once she was enveloped by its pavement throng he was able to get closer, taking in details such as the discreetly expensive look of the bag slung over the girl’s shoulder and the way her dark blonde hair shone like honey in the morning light.

Then a black Land Rover Discovery surged out of the stream of barely moving traffic with a throaty growl and came to a stop, two wheels up on the pavement, ahead of the girl. The driver, a youngish man with a number two crew cut, wearing a black leather jacket, jumped out and went over to her. When she shook her head and carried on, he walked alongside her, talking into her ear. A few seconds later, she tried to break away but he put a staying hand on her upper arm, a gesture at once intimate, yet controlling. She didn’t shake it off, instead slowing to a halt. From the angle of his head it was clear the guy was cajoling her.

Janusz could make out a densely inked tattoo on the back of the guy’s hand, which disappeared beneath the cuffs of his jacket, and emerged above the collar. A snake, he realised – its open jaws spread across his knuckles, the tip of its tail coiling up behind his ear. The girl’s head was bent now, submissive. After a moment or two, she gave an almost imperceptible shrug, and allowed herself to be ushered to the car.

She climbed into the back seat where Janusz glimpsed the outline of another passenger – a man – before the Land Rover slid back into the traffic. He cursed softly: with no black cabs cruising for fares this far east, he had no way of following them. But twenty seconds later, just beyond a Polish sklep where Janusz sometimes bought rye bread flour, the Land Rover threw a sudden left turn that made its tyres shriek.

Janusz doubled his stride towards the turnoff. When he reached the corner it was just as he remembered: the road was a dead-end, and the big black car had pulled up not twenty metres away, its engine murmuring. He stopped, and pulling out his mobile, pretended to be taking a call. Through the rear window of the car, seated next to the girl, he could see a wide-shouldered, bullet-headed man. Judging by his angrily working profile and her bowed head, she was getting a tirade of abuse. Even from this distance the man gave off the unmistakable aura of power and menace. When he appeared to fall silent for a moment, the girl turned and said something. A swift blur of movement and the girl’s head ricocheted off the side window. Janusz clenched his fists: the fucker had hit her! Only a conscious act of self-control stopped him sprinting to the car and dragging the skurwiel out to administer a lesson in the proper treatment of women. A half-second later, the kerbside door flew open and he pushed the girl out onto the pavement. The door slammed, the car performed a screeching U-turn, mounting the opposite pavement in the process, and sped off back to Hoe Street.

Janusz could restrain himself no longer: he jogged over to where the girl half-sat, half-sprawled on the kerb, her long legs folded beneath her like a fawn. She looked up at him, a dazed look in her greenish eyes, before accepting his arm and getting to her feet. Her movements were calm and dignified, but he noticed how badly her hands were shaking as she attempted to button her coat.

He retrieved one of her high-heeled shoes from the gutter and, once he was sure she was steady on her feet, stepped back. The last thing she needed right now was a man crowding her personal space.

‘Can I do anything?’ he asked. ‘I got the number plate – if you wanted to get the police involved, I mean?’

She touched the side of her head – the bastard had clearly hit her where the bruise wouldn’t show – and met his eyes with a look that mixed resignation with wary gratitude.

‘Thank you,’ she said finally, her dry half-smile telling him that the police weren’t really an option. ‘It is kind of you. But really, is not a problem.’ Her voice was attractively husky, with an Eastern European lilt – that much he was sure of – but not entirely Polish. If he had to lay money on it he’d say she hailed from further east, one of the countries bordering Russia, perhaps.

As she dusted the pavement grit from her palms his eyes lingered on her fine, long-boned fingers. Then he remembered why he had followed her in the first place: to find out her connection to Jim and why she would leave a bunch of expensive flowers in his memory. He was tempted for a moment to broach it with her there and then, but some instinct told him that a blunt enquiry would scare her off.

‘Allow me to give you my card, all the same,’ he said, proffering it with a little old-fashioned bow. It gave nothing away beyond his name and number and offered his only hope of future contact with the girl. ‘In case you change your mind – or should ever find yourself in need of assistance.’

She took the card, the wariness in her eyes giving way to a cautious warmth.

‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘A girl never knows when she might need a little assistance.’ And pocketing it, she turned, as graceful as a ballet dancer, and started to walk away.

‘May I know your name?’ Janusz asked to her departing back.

For a moment he thought she wasn’t going to answer, but then, without breaking step, she threw a single word over her shoulder.

‘Varenka!’

Short, Sharp Interview: Anya Lipska

ANYA LIPSKA’S WEBSITE IS HERE.

Where The Devil Can’t Go by Anya Lipska – Update.

Where the Devil Can't Go One of my favourite crime novels of 2012 was Where The Devil Can’t Go by Anya Lipska.

It tells the story of Janusz Kiszka, a Polish ex-pat who has been living in London for over twenty years. A man with a past he’d rather forget.

Janusz is a ‘fixer’. A kind of unofficial Private Eye. When he is asked by his priest to track down a missing Polish waitress it seems like a straightforward case of a young girl running away with her boyfriend.  However, as Janusz searches for the girl, he digs deeper and uncovers something much more sinister.

Meanwhile,  D C Natalie Kershaw, new to the job and trying to make her mark, is investigating the suspicious death of a young Polish girl whose body is washed up from the river Thames.

And, of course, the two stories intertwine. This is a cracking début novel from Anya Lipska, which mixes a well paced police procedural with a tense political thriller. The world of the Polish ex pat in London is brilliantly drawn, as are the scenes set in Poland, and both Janusz Kiszka and Natalie Kershaw are vivid, gritty, no-nonsense characters who deserve to feature in more novels. A great calling card for Anya Lipska and surely the start of an addictive new crime series and is now available in paperback.

Anya says:

My detective thriller Where the Devil Can’t Go completed its long journey to publication in paperback form on 7 February.  

The publisher is The Friday Project, an imprint of Harper Collins, who have also ordered a second book in the series featuring Polish fixer and private eye Janusz Kiszka and Met detective DC Natalie Kershaw.  

The book will be available through local bookshops and the usual online emporia … but most exciting for me is that it will also be in larger WH Smiths – at least for February – the store where  bought all my books when I was growing up. Book 2 will also be based within the Polish community in London but the plot line will be more contemporary than in ‘Devil’.  

There is a trailer for the book – this is the embed code should you want to upload it:   https://www.youtube.com/embed/qHStR166UG4?rel=0 

 and also a new website (inc the trailer) at www.anyalipska.com

 My favourite cover line?  Thriller writer Emlyn Rees:  ‘RIP Nordic crime, here come the Poles.’

Where The Devil Can’t Go by Anya Lipska

Janusz Kiszka is a Polish ex-pat who has been living in London for over twenty years. A man with a past he’d rather forget.


Janusz is a ‘fixer’. A kind of  unofficial Private Eye. 


When he is asked by his priest to track down a missing Polish waitress it seems like a straightforward case of a young girl running away with her boyfriend. 


However, as Janusz searches for the girl, he digs deeper and uncovers something much more sinister.


Meanwhile,  D C Natalie Kershaw, new to the job and trying to make her mark, is investigating the suspicious death of a young Polish girl whose body is washed up from the river Thames.


And, of course, the two stories intertwine.


Where The Devil Can’t Go is the cracking début novel from Anya Lipska, which mixes a well paced police procedural with a tense political thriller. The world of the Polish ex pat in London is brilliantly drawn, as are the scenes set in Poland, and both Janusz Kiszka and Natalie Kershaw are vivid, gritty, no-nonsense characters who deserve to feature in more novels.


Where The Devil Can’t Go is a great calling card for Anya Lipska and surely the start of an addictive new crime series.

Short, Sharp Interview: Anya Lipska

PDB: Can you pitch WHERE THE DEVIL CAN’T GO  in 25 words or less? 

This unusual mix of detective story and political thriller sees a fixer to London’s Polish community becoming entangled in the case of a murdered girl.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently? 

Book: The Three Evangelists by French crime writer Fred Vargas. Her quirky and original voice makes her one of those European crime writers who escape the ‘formula’.

Film: The Proposition. A bleakly violent yet strangely poetic tale of crime and punishment set in the 19thcentury Australian outback.

TV:  Inspector Montalbano.  A wonderful series, full of heart, wit, and good food.Although it suggests there is not a single young woman on Sicily who is not improbably beautiful, the show is also laced with cracking older female characters – almost entirely absent from UK drama.

It may be a slightly sanitized version of Camilleri’s original creation, but a night in with the Inspector, a plate of osso buco, and a Sicilian red is still hard to beat.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader? 

I think so.  As a result of a misspent youth I didn’t go to University, where I would have studied English, and although in some ways I regret it, it meant that I discovered books on my own terms, without the academic ‘baggage’ that according to some of my Eng Lit BA chums can get in the way of the reading experience.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television? 

It would be amazing to have the opportunity to adapt Where the Devil Can’t Go for film or TV.  People have been kind enough to say my writing is very ‘visual’ – but I’m aware there are hundreds of great unadapted crime books out there in the queue ahead of mine!

PDB: How much research goes into each book? 

Poland’s Solidarity movement, which fought the Soviet regime, was a key element of my novel’s back story and I was anxious to get the details right, so by the end of the process I had probably spent several months on research, including visits to Gdansk and the Kashubian Lakeland – not exactly a hardship!

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer? 

Twitter has been hugely important and hugely useful – in a ways I never could have imagined. I’d rather eat my cat than ‘work a room’ in the real world, but meeting total strangers in cyberspace has been easy and enjoyable.

The wonderful and encouraging reviews my book has received from bloggers and reviewers are almost entirely down to contacts made via Twitter.

It’s also an incredibly valuable way to connect with other writers, industry professionals and, above all, readers.

PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012? 

Writing book #2. But I’m torn between two projects:  a second book featuring my lead characters – fixer Janusz Kiszka and London cop DC Kershaw – and something a bit different, a thriller that my agent somewhat worryingly describes as ‘high concept’…

All I know for sure is that it will be set to some degree in London’s Polish community.  Czesc!