Tag Archives: crime

Death Can’t Take a Joke by Anya Lipska – a review

Currently being stuck at home means the postman’s visit is always a very exciting prospect and amazon has become my best friend these past few weeks. There is nothing more exciting than receiving a parcel you don’t remember ordering. Except that is, if you then find out that not only is it a book, it’s an advanced copy of a book sent directly from the publisher by an author whose first novel you really liked. Winner winner chicken dinner as some would say (although I’m a vegetarian so chicken dinner isn’t something I’d be too pleased about!)

death Death Can’t Take a Joke is the second novel by Anya Lipska. I read her first novel ‘Where the devil can’t go’ as part of last year’s festival reading. Anya Lipska had been picked by Val McDermid to appear as part of the new blood panel during the crime festival.

Death Can’t Take a Joke begins with detective Natalie Kershaw about to start a new job with the Murder squad. Unfortunately on her way to work she comes across a potential suicide so her first task is to identify the body. This is not as straightforward as it sounds as the person has no identity and the only clue is a polish coin found at the scene.

As in the first novel, the other main character is Janusz Kiszka. He is a private investigator who is also well known within the Polish community as someone who can fix things. His best friend Jim is stabbed to death outside his front door, and Kiszka vows to track down who is responsible. He starts by following a woman who he sees leaving flowers at the scene, which is a trail that soon leads him into trouble, and to accompanying Kershaw to Poland where things finally begin to make sense.

Death Can’t Take a Joke was a great read, as evidenced by the fact I read it in a day. Initially as with all good books, it starts out as seemingly separate stories which slowly begin to wind together culminating in the final reveal. A couple of times during the book I had an ‘ah ha’ moment and thought I’d actually guessed what was going to happen. Each time I was wrong as more twists and turns were created.

I especially liked the fact that everything around the thriller aspect was neatly wrapped up at the end although not in a sickly isn’t it all wonderful way but realistically and relationships were still left damaged. The characters were very likeable and I felt they were less annoying this time than in her previous novel which could be a sign that I am just getting to know them better.

One of my favourite things about this novel, as with her previous book was the insight it gives into the Polish community and Eastern European history although I felt that this time there was less emphasis on the actual setting and more on the stories but that is often the case with a second book. Throughout the story you are aware that you are reading about a Polish man, and one of the subtle ways this is reinforced is through the fact the novel is interspersed with Polish words. They are placed in such a way that they don’t interrupt the flow of the story at all but are a great way of consistently reminding the reader of the different cultures.

I would definitely recommend this book and look forward to reading more from Anya Lipska. In the meantime it’s back to the internet for more online shopping!

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Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes – a review

This was the first book I read on my recent trip to hospital and the third book I’ve read by the author who I met a couple of years ago at the crime festival.

Human Remains is a story told from the perspectives of two main characters. Firstly there is Annabel. She lives alone and has few friends, even her work colleagues see her as a bit of joke despite being good at her job as a police analyst. The other main character in the story is Colin. He works for the council and again is a very solitary person although this is more through choice than circumstance. He is highly intelligent and preys on the lonely and vulnerable. The story begins with Annabel going to look for her cat and finding the decomposing remains of her next door neighbour. This being so close to home makes her realise during the course of her work that there are alot of bodies found of people who seem to have simply starved to death. She starts to investigate further until her mother dies and she meets journalist Joe.

The story flicks between the view point of the two main characters and enables us to get a good understanding of their backgrounds. In addition interspersed throughout the novel are newspaper articles. These relate to dead bodies that have been found alongside chapters written in the dead people’s voices telling us what led them to do what they did.

I really enjoyed Human Remains (when not being distracted by nurses fussing around, or my neighbours watching day time tv) Whilst the story could not be described as fast paced I felt the relatively slow boil nature of it was perfect for giving the sense of loneliness and desperation that makes the characters within vulnerable to manipulation. The switching between the viewpoints works really well I think. It can often be a bit confusing when books are written like this but Annabel and Colin were portrayed clearly and gave a real insight into how their minds worked, this was especially true of Colin.

This is not a classic who-dunnit as it is obvious from the outset who is the perpetrator. However none of this made it any less of a page turner. The way the story unfolds makes you want to understand why the characters do what they do, and gives you a great feeling of the sadness lurking beneath their actions. I suspect that any single person in their mid thirties with knowledge of Bridget Jones and her alsatian fear will have some empathy with people in this novel.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book as a bit of winter reading, although half way through you may feel the need to stop and go and check on your neighbours if you haven’t seen them for a while!

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Sweet Little Lies by Bianca Sloane – a review

I was very pleased to be sent a kindle copy of this book by Bianca after I’d read her first one ( a review of that is available here) and was looking forward to reading it. I was not disappointed.

Kelly and Mark seem to be the perfect couple. She is a model who now runs her own very successful cosmetics company, and he is a highly successful sports lawyer. Everything goes downhill when she comes home one day to find a condom in their bed and immediately assumes that her husband has been having an affair. Rather than sit down and talk it through she then stabs him before panicking and going on the run. Whilst trying to work out what to do next, she starts her own investigation into her husband and gets deeper into his secret life.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. The story was gripping and kept me hooked until the end. Certainly bits of it seemed a little far fetched but then its fiction and often in novels realism has to be balanced with ensuring the story moves along. It wouldn’t have been much of a story if the police had caught up with Kelly in the first hotel she went to. There were some little bits that annoyed me and I suspect the novel could potentially have done with firmer editing, for example in one of the scenes Mark walks into the bathroom and comes out before walking back in (of course potentially he could just have wanted to go into the bathroom twice rather than it being a continuity error)

However these minor issues did not detract from the story. The main character was likeable (apart from the minor issue of her murdering her husband) and you wanted her to win. The book switches viewpoints throughout which once I got used to I really enjoyed and gave a different dimension to the story. It was interesting to follow the story through and see how it all intertwines. The ending was a bit of a surprise although with hindsight its probably the only way to have tied up all the ends. I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more from Bianca.

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I’m the king of the castle by Susan Hill – a review

Susan Hill is appearing at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writers Festival this July. Although I’ve seen the film of Woman in Black, I’ve never read any of her books so picked this as one of her earliest.

Hooper lives with his Father in a big house they moved into after the death of his Grandfather. His father then employs a housekeeper who brings her son Kingshaw with her. The two boys are expected to become friends and are left to their own devices by two parents who are more interested in their own relationship than how their offspring are getting on. Hooper is a bully, and he makes Kingshaw his target.

This was a disturbing tale of children’s relationships. It’s often the case that people think just because children are the same age they should be friends without any thought to their own individual personalities. As this book shows that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I found that this book seemed a little slow to start with as the writing is quite descriptive but with hindsight this made the story even more evocative. The story gave a good portrayal of how children can act with one another.  It’s not about violence as much as the taunting and the name calling. The fear of bullying often comes from what might happen rather than what actually happens. Although Hooper is the bully, and Kingshaw the victim you get a sense of loneliness and desperation from both of them. This is exacerbated by the fact their parents barely acknowledge them other than to try and force them to be friends. Throughout the book there is a sense of doom that builds up until the very last explosive scene.

I enjoyed this book, and found it quite thought provoking especially after the last scene. Susan Hill is special guest on the Friday night at the festival and it will be interesting to hear her talk. I’d definitely like to try and read some of her crime novels before the event to see how they differ from her stand alone works.

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