A Devil Under the Skin | Anya Lipska | 2015 | The Friday Project | 351p | Review copy | Buy the book
Things are looking up for Janusz Kiszka. His girlfriend Kasia is finally taking that step of leaving Steve, her petty villain and ruffian husband, and is moving in with Janusz. As Kasia transforms his flat, Janusz realises that his life will never be the same again and he wouldn’t have it any other way. But when Kasia leaves to go back to Steve for the final time, for a birthday that she promised she would be there for, she disappears without trace.
Janusz has a great deal of influence in London. A popular, immensely likeable man, Janusz spends his time helping the Polish community. There’s very little going on that he doesn’t know about. But when even he hits wall after wall in his search for Kasia – and Steve, for it seems he too has vanished – Janusz realises he must fight his inbuilt distrust of the police and ask a favour from his friend, PC Natalie Kershaw.
Natalie has problems of her own. A member of London’s armed response force, a call out created all kinds of trouble for Natalie and she has only just returned to the job, although being kept far from the front line. As Natalie struggles to find her new place in the police, she grabs the chance to investigate the disappearance of Kasia and Steve. Sometimes working together, but more often independently, clues moving between them, some staying hidden and secret, Natalie and Janusz uncover a trail of brutal murders. It’s soon painfully clear that Kasia is running out of time.
A Devil Under the Skin is the third in Anya Lipska’s Kiszka and Kershaw series but, sorry to say, it’s my first. This didn’t matter at all with the story. It’s perfectly self-contained. And although I didn’t know the back history behind Janusz and Natalie’s friendship, I rather liked that nothing was given away about the earlier books. Janusz and Natalie are both instantly captivating as characters. I didn’t need to know their past to care about them both almost immediately. Janusz in particular is adorable and I loved the background to his character as we see him moving among the Polish community, uncovering fascinating stories about Poland in the past as well as meeting some people who might not be on the page for long but grab our full attention. Janusz’s friend Oskar is an absolutely joy. This is a book teeming with interest.
The story itself is deeply involving and disturbing and I’m not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears during the course of the novel. Anya Lipska writes so well, driving the plot forward with emotion and character. As far as I can judge, the book is expertly researched and feels very real. Both Janusz and Natalie have a great deal to think about. They are both preoccupied but they involve us completely.
There is nothing about A Devil Under the Skin that I didn’t enjoy. The path ahead for Janusz and Natalie is paved with intrigue, complications and mystery. I can’t wait to see where it heads.