Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
Death Can't Take A Joke is the second in Anya Lipska's Kizska and Kershaw series, a sequel to Where The Devil Can't Go.
Janusz Kiszka is a Polish emigre, long settled in London, who has become a go-to person for the Poles now settling in the city. In the first book a young and hungry detective, Natalie Kershaw, thought he was the murderer she was looking for, but in a close brush with death Kiszka saved her and revealed the true villain. As this second volume begins, Kershaw is on her way to her new post in the murder squad in London's Docklands, only to be delayed by an unidentified body falling from the heights of a skyscraper. So not only is she loaded with the responsibility of solving the case of the inconnu she is also going to be late for the briefing of another fresh death: but this is the street-stabbing of a Polish man who turns out to be a close friend of Janusz Kiszka. Kiszka is a man who seems naturally to be a subject of interest, particularly as a well-known museum seems to lack anyway of identifying its visitors; particularly as Kiszka's visit is also his alibi.
Meanwhile, Kershaw is going to have even less spare time, as she and her boyfriend, another police officer, are just about give up their separate flats and move into together. This is a book of see-sawing events: just as Kershaw is able to prove Kiszka's alibi, which lets him back on the streets to begin his own investigations, Kershaw finds that she must go to Pland to continue hers. She will need a translator; Kiszka is her choice. This suits Kiszka who has begun his own detecting by following a tall blonde and discovering that her sugar-daddy once owned a small east European airline.
Aircraft, London, blondes who get beaten up: Kiszka is thinking human trafficking. Meanwhile, Kershaw is finding herself in a quandary, also, for her boyfriend has become too involved with the family who have suffered child abuse; a case which seems to be closed by a suspect's death, only to have to be re-opened. Lipska keeps the challenges coming, puzzle follows puzzle, apparent solutions have to be reversed but each strand is gradually knotted: her plot tightens.
Though there are echoes of other stories and characters (I thought of Silence Of The Lambs at one point), Natalie Kershaw is a realistic and flawed character: to do her job she needs to be a super-woman and as Death Can't Take A Joke begins she is not even a qualified murder detective. The flaw shows itself at its worst – and there are probably real police officers who do this – in the assumption she shares with her colleagues that a suspect found “not guilty” of an offence is actually guilty: this is never proved but affects their investigation.
It has been some time since I read a police procedural that was so well plotted as Death Can't Take A Joke. Even so, I am not sure that it is not just Kiszka and Kershaw who will be back – read it to find why I express myself thus, but not just before you have your dinner.