An uncanny and disturbing death is usually a good way to kick off a mystery novel. “Death Can’t Take a Joke” by Anya Lipska does just that, except make death plural and go beyond solely uncovering the killer. Add twisted murderers, unsettling suicides, underground drug dealers, illegal business owners, sex traffickers, prostitutes, two unlikely co-players, and a particularly interesting Ukrainian woman into the mix and you got yourself a suspenseful book that will keep you wondering.
Newly appointed Detective Constable Natalie Kershaw of the Murder Squad in London was taking a sip of coffee and letting her fears of losing her independence slowly drain out as she internally decided to finally move in with her long-term boyfriend Ben, also working in the same building now but in the suicide unit. She was still on the fence about the matter, but since getting this promotion, she decided it was time. That’s when it hits her; literally, a half-frozen dead body flew right past her, slamming into a limo and starting an investigation that might prolong that promotion she had been dreaming of since she was 14 years old. As she witnessed this unidentified suicide/murder/accident, she was unable to leave her own motto of, “never leaving a task incomplete” and her reluctance to put an end to this minor investigation of what seemed to be just an unknown identity. It prolongs her from her official duty as a detective in the city’s most current murder, a complex case concerning Jim Fullford’s death, a solider, a family man, and Janusz Kiszka’s best mate who decides to find answers by himself due to his and the lead detective, Kershaw’s previous history.
Janusz Kiszka starts that night off annoyed at his friend Jim, it was out of character for his mate, who served in the army with him, to be more than 10 minutes early to anything, especially their drinking night out. Janusz ended up hitting the pub by his lonesome; next thing he knew, he was getting calls from Jim’s wife weeping to him about how Jim had been found brutally stabbed to death. Shortly after this shocking discovery, Kershaw’s unit decided to forcefully take Janusz into questioning once again as a primary suspect for Jim’s murder. After he was reluctantly released from the station, he had one nagging thought and that was that the police were just looking for a person to blame for the killing and they did not care who the killer really was and why Jim was targeted. This is why he chooses to do his own private investigation, easy enough he believes he had worked as a private investigator since he came back from war, but when lines are blurred on revenge rather than justice, things might easily falter. Add a suspiciously beautiful blonde woman into the mix, and things might really take a turn for the worse.
There are mysteries within mysteries in both Kiszka’s and Kershaw’s lives in this book; it’s fascinating to read and imagine how some of their individual stories come together while others shred apart through this gripping novel. Sometimes when you read a mystery you expect different stories to overlap and become intertwined, get tangled and by the end of the book, you can already predict how they will all come to their finality. But this novel keeps you on the edge of your reading glasses even after the killer[s] is identified. This is because this book doesn’t see murder purely as a black and white concept between good and bad but understands the gray scale of revenge, murder, and death to the point where you are left inevitably wanting more. Anya Lipska intentionally fails to secure all the loose ends at the end of her story, hinting that there may be another Kershaw and Janusz mystery lurking around the corner.
Publication Date: March 2014