Janusz Kiszka is a Polish immigrant who has lived in Highbury, North London since the 1980’s. Well known in the Polish community, he is an unofficial fixer. If something goes wrong, he is the guy to sort it. But he has a lot on his plate at the moment. A builder in Stratford, creator of Notting Hill’s first Georgian bungalow owes him money. His girlfriend Kasia is reluctant to leave her husband, and his priest has asked him to help in the case of a missing girl Weronika who has disappeared with her boyfriend Pawel.
Meanwhile, DC Natalie Kershaw is still adjusting to life in CID. A woman has been pulled out of the Thames with an illegal drug in her system. Kershaw thinks it was murder, whilst her DI thinks it was a drug-fuelled accident.
This book has so many layers. On the surface it is a crime thriller- missing girl and murder, but look underneath and it is an interesting account of Polish history and Polish present, the current state of the country and the need for political and economic reform. It made me interested in learning more about Poland under communist rule. Helpfully Lipska has named the books which she found useful during the writing of the novel in her acknowledgements page.
I was hooked by this story, with it’s fantastic characters and plot which kept me guessing. I did notice that the viewpoint can change during the course of one chapter, but I didn’t find this frustrating. I enjoyed the way Kiszka and Kershaw play off against each other on the few meetings they have. Kiszka is tough, well built, but like book Is deeper than he originally seems. He enjoys cooking- his roast potatoes made my mouth water, and my husband would agree with his advice on spending a bit more money for a good bit of steak. As the book progresses we learn more about Kiszka’s history and the events that brought him to London, and during his chapters we get smatterings of Polish words. Just enough to be authentic, not enough to leave me confused.
Kershaw is trying to make her way in what is obviously still a mans world. She is desperate to be a good cop, but makes assumptions which lead to problems. I felt she wasn’t quite as intriguing a character as Kiszka, but that is more a reflection on the strength of his character rather than deficiencies with hers.
This book is the first in a series, and I will definitely be reading more!