Every year at the festival Val McDermid runs the New Blood panel which is a group of brand new authors who she thinks are worth reading. If it is good enough for Val it is good enough for me.
I must confess I was a bit sceptical of this book to start with. Another crime novel set in London with a young, naïve woman who would no doubt catch the criminal at the end and all would be rosy. However I was completely wrong. Despite a bit of a slow start (more to do with my attitude than the writing) this book soon gripped me. At the heart it is a murder mystery but told from the perspective of two very different characters.
One is Janusz, a polish immigrant who is seen as a kind of private detective / fixer within the polish community. He is asked to help find a missing girl. He suspects she has just run off with her boyfriend, but agrees to look into it anyway. The other main character is Natalie Kershaw, the young police detective. She is tasked with investigating the death of a young woman found floating in the Thames. Another body soon appears and she connects the two. Both characters paths cross and Janusz becomes both a suspect and a source of information.
This novel was not only an intriguing murder story, it also gave a fascinating insight into the history of Poland, and the Polish community living in London. However unlike some novels which can get bogged down in detail, none of this detracts from the story. In fact it simply enhances it and at no point do you get the feeling that you are being preached at. This was probably testament to the quality of the writing.
I thought both the main characters were equally likeable and annoying, which I find tends to be the case with most human beings anyway and meant that they seemed very realistic. I also enjoyed the way that the story was interspersed with polish words as it seemed to give a realism to the dialogue that added to the feel of the book. You get a real sense of how it must be to have lived both in Poland under communist rule, and now as a settler in a foreign country. The descriptions of London, and then Gdansk in Poland had a certain darkness to them that gave an almost gothic feel. This was interspersed with bits of humour that lifted what could have been quite a dark novel.
I would definitely recommend this book and look forward to hearing about future books featuring these characters at the panel at the theakstons crime festival.