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A Lovelorn Kiszka: A Devil Under the Skin

A Devil Under the SkinA Devil Under the Skin by Anya Lipska

The third Kiszka and Kershaw crime thriller: Things are looking up for Janusz Kiszka, big-hearted ‘fixer’ to London’s Poles. His girlfriend/the love of his life, Kasia, is finally leaving her no-good husband to make a new life with him. Then Kasia vanishes. Convinced she’s been abducted, Kiszka must swallow his pride and seek the help of an old contact – maverick cop Natalie Kershaw. But the search swiftly takes an even darker turn…What connects Kasia’s disappearance and a string of brutal East End murders? 

First Impressions: As with the previous two books in the series I was draw in right from the start… Compelling reading!

Highlights: I don’t want this review to sound like a re-hash of previous reviews but I really like the way that Kiszka and Kershaw are brought together to solve the crime. It’s not a sigh of ‘here we go again for the double act…’.  Time has passed and it is all believable, not in any way forced.
This novel is another page turner from Lipska with perhaps less of an Eastern Euro geographical focus but this East End focus didn’t make it less interesting. Maybe I need to spend a day travelling the Central Line! I liked Kiszka’s insurance fraud investigation too, by the way, and I wasn’t too upset that Kershaw’s personal life took a back seat in this novel either. She is more interesting when at work! As well as absolutely loving the cover art on these novels I also enjoyed the extra material at the end of this novel. I now know how to pronounce ‘Kasia’!

If I was an editor: C’mon Kiszka, come investigating South of the River sometime… I hear SW has a large Polish population ūüôā

Overall: And when is the next one being published?

A Devil Under the Skin: 5 stars

 

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Better than the Scandi set: Death Can’t Take a Joke

Death Can't Take a JokeDeath Can’t Take a Joke by Anya Lipska

I must confess that I don’t read as much crime as I would like. However, I do have an affinity with the Scandi crime novels and in my opinion I think¬†that both the Kiszka and Kershaw novels I have read easily trump a lot of the bleak noir from the north.

The Second Kiszka and Kershaw novel: When one of his best friends is stabbed to death outside his home, Janusz Kiszka – ‘fixer’ to East London’s Polish community – begins a search to discover who is responsible for the crime. Meanwhile, Natalie Kershaw is trying to discover the identity of a man who jumped to his death from a Canary Wharf office block.¬†Kiszka and Kershaw agree to tolerate each other enough to travel to a remote part of Poland together, each with the hope of solving their crime.

First Impressions:¬†Just as much as a page turner as the first novel in the series. I liked the crimes being solved, particularly the jumper (if you can say that…) and I also liked the fact that some time had passed since the first novel as it feels more realistic. Kiszka and Kershaw really do have their own lives and don’t just keep bumping into each other in ‘here we go again’ scenarios.

Highlights: In addition to the mystery of the Canary Wharf jumper, I loved the bleakness of the trip to Poland, the links to other places beyond the former Iron Curtain and the superb historical context that Lipska has researched. Then again, I am a history buff!

If I was an editor: I would say that I wasn’t too fussed with Kershaw’s boyfriend’s problems but everything else kept rolling along so well it didn’t really bother me if I am being honest. Most importantly, there was a point to this part of the story so it did have to be included.

Overall: I have already pre-ordered book 3 in the series – the first pre-order I have ever made!

Death Can’t Take a Joke: 5¬†stars

Thank you to Harper Collins (The Friday Project) for a copy of the title to review.

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The 8.30am from Warsaw: Where the Devil Can’t Go

Where the Devil Can't GoWhere the Devil Can’t Go by Anya Lipska

The first Kiszka and Kershaw novel: A naked girls has washed up on to the banks of the River Thames. The only clue to her identity is a home made tattoo with two foreign names and a love heart. Janusz Kiszka has lived in London for 20 years and is a ‘fixer’ in the Polish community. Little did he anticipate he would be accused of murder by Natalie Kershaw, an ambitious¬†detective. Also being pursued by a dangerous criminal, Janusz travels back to Poland in the hope of discovering the identity of the killer.

First Impressions: This was a page turner from the very start! I was hooked with the everyday dealings of Janusz and the sort of things a fixer does; it’s not as notorious as it sounds!

Highlights: At first I worried at the sprinkling of Polish words: no glossary so would I need to google translate? Well, it turned out¬†it was easy to work out the meaning of the Polish words and many of them weren’t as alien as I expected such¬†the word psychol which always made me want to giggle. Janusz’s character was brilliant and completely believable. Kershaw was a good character too but she was always in the shadow of the Polish fixer. The links to Poland gave the novel huge amounts of depth and created the same atmosphere that a lot of Scandinavian crime novels achieve.

If I was an editor: I can’t think of anything to improve. It was a perfect page turner that had me reading it whenever I could. As crimes go, this was an interesting one to follow…

Overall:¬†The next day I began the second Kiszka and Kershaw mystery. I can’t¬†remember¬†the last time I read two books by the same author back to back.

Where the Devil Can’t Go: 5¬†stars

Thank you to Harper Collins (The Friday Project) for a copy of the title to review.

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The Weight of Water

The Weight of WaterThe Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

The Weight of Water is a novel in verse for children and early teens. Despite its simplicity, as an adult I found it poignant and touching. I feel that older teens will probably enjoy it too, particularly if they are in the process of learning English or are having friendship issues at school.

The story is told by Kasienka, a¬†12-almost-13-year-old who has arrived in Coventry with her mother. Originally from Gdansk in Poland, they are on a mission to find their missing husband and father. Kasienka has to adapt to living in cramped conditions and starting a new school where she is an outsider. The story is not so much one of family, but one of loneliness, bullying and fresh starts. Kasienka’s natural ability at swimming ties together all three of these ideas. Through verse, Kasienka delicately¬†summarises the feelings and experiences of¬†new immigrants as well¬†as¬†those who feel they are¬†left on the margins.

I read this book in one sitting and highly recommend it. Kasienka’s character is realistic and it is hard not to¬†warm to¬†her. I would have liked to find out more about William, Kasienka’s friend at school, as his motivations aren’t always clear. However, it is an odd quirk of the book that I feel I know all of¬†the immigrant characters better than the English characters, including¬†those who appear frequently in the book. Perhaps this is a clever¬†insight into how Kasienka relates to her new surroundings and social circles. My favourite character was Kenoro, the unassuming Kenyan neighbour.

With its interesting mix of unique characters and the skilful use of language and subject, I think this is a book all school libraries should purchase.

The Weight of Water: 5 stars

Thank you to Bloomsbury for providing me with a review copy of this title.

Two other verse novels for children that I recommend:

Make LemonadeMake Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff. Fourteen year old LaVaughn is looking for a job so she can start to save money for college. She ends up babysitting for Jolly, a seventeen year old single mother with two children to different fathers.

Out of the DustOut of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Fifteen year old Billie Jo is caught trying to survive in the Oklahoma dust bowl with her family in the 1930s.

Finally, a newly published verse novel for adults that is on my to read list:

The Marlowe PapersThe Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber. A thriller concerning who the real writer of Shakespeare’s plays really was.