There is a Polish proverb: Gdzie diabel nie moze, tam babe posle (Where the devil can’t go, he’ll send a woman)
Set in London, this debut crime thriller is the first in a series featuring rookie DC Natalie Kershaw, and Janusz Kiszka, a builder and unofficial ‘fixer’ and ‘go-to man’ in East London’s Polish community.
The novel is part police procedural and part history lesson about the Polish diaspora which estimates that between 300,000 and 800,000 Poles moved to the UK since May 2004. These Poles have vivid memories of communist rule and Lech Wałęsa’s part in Poland’s transformation from a communist to a post-communist state.
The novel opens with the discovery of a young girl’s body found in the Thames. Naked, her only identifying mark is a crude tattoo on her buttock. DC Kershaw is tasked with the case. The autopsy will show that she had ingested a new designer drug called PMA before her death. Investigation into the history of PMA proves that this dangerous counterfeit version of ecstasy has killed before. In Gdansk, Poland.
Meanwhile in a parallel storyline we meet Janusz Kiszka, a large man physically with a big heart and a unique moral code. He has an estranged son who lives with his mother back in Poland. Despite his large and gruff exterior, he is a man wracked with guilt. He is approached by a priest friend to investigate the disappearance of a young Polish waitress. His investigation involves him in a criminal conspiracy with its roots in Poland’s Solidarity era. The dark and disturbing atmosphere is lightened with some much needed levity in the descriptions of Kiszka’s relationship with his friend Oskar.
Kershaw and Kiszka paths cross when she suspects him of murder. His name is found on a piece of paper found in the mouth of a second murdered girl. Later she uses him as a source of information to further her investigations. Their relationship is one of wariness laced with begrudging admiration.
The main characters are very likeable and the background stories are meaningful and necessary to fully understand the events that take place in the present. However, I personally would have enjoyed the novel more were it not so didactic in nature. A little more about DC Kershaw’s investigation and a little less corrupt Polish gangsters and politicians.
To view the novel’s book trailer, click here.