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THE POLISH DETECTIVE

THE POLISH DETECTIVE . . . Between the covers

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FICTIONAL SCOTTISH COPPERS – rather like single malt whiskies – are spread the length and breadth of that fine country. Highlands, Lowlands, islands, stately university cities, gritty oil and gas ports, mistily romantic glens and litter-strewn council estates where hope goes to die. Chris Longmuir has set her DS Bill Murphy novels in Dundee, but she has by no means cornered the Tayside market, for now comes Hania Allen with the first in a series set in Dundee and featuring Polish-born DS Dania Gorska.

TPDDania Gorska has come to work in Dundee after starting her career in London with the Met. A divorce from husband Tony (watch out for the clever twist) has left her footloose and fancy free. Her exemplary record has meant she has enjoyed a swift and welcome transfer to Police Scotland. She lodges with her brother Marek, who is an investigative journalist.

The discovery, in a farmer’s field, of the body of a female academic displayed in the manner of a scarecrow sets in train a murder enquiry which takes Gorska and her colleagues down a twisty and circuitous road where they come across Druids, an eccentric Laird, two missing schoolgirls – and another girl obsessed with studying how dead creatures decay. As you might expect, the killer hasn’t finished and more corpses end up on the pathologist’s cutting table. Early on in the narrative, one of the characters comes across as a definite ‘wrong ‘un’, but Allen weaves the threads of the plot into a cunning riddle with a surprising and satisfying solution.

Hania-Allen_CarolineTrotter-Photography_2017The Polish Detective is in some ways a standard police procedural which chugs along nicely on its accustomed rails. All the usual characters are present and correct; no such story would be complete without a dyspeptic senior officer, the obligatory post mortem scene with a sarcastic medical professor wielding the bone saw, the male junior detective who thinks he’s Jack – or perhaps Jock – the Lad, and the mind numbing tedium of the door knocking and CCTV scanning that sits behind every brilliant solution to a murder mystery. What lifts this book above the average is the character of Dania Gorska herself, and in particular her musical passion for, naturally, her great countryman Frédéric François Chopin and his sublime piano music. Hania Allen (right) describes herself as a pianist who makes up in enthusiasm what she lacks in talent, but under the fingers of DS Gorska, the great man’s preludes and nocturnes shimmer and sparkle throughout the pages, and the darker notes of the Polish soul are never far away.

The events in The Polish Detective take place on the eve of the June 2016 EU referendum, the result of which I suspect Hania Allen disapproves, as she has her heroine declaring at one point, that Chopin was “ also a European, as we all are..” I live in a town full of lovely Polskie people who have come to Britain in the last fifteen years or so, and those that I know well are intensely proud – in the best way possible – of their nation and its culture. Dania Gorska’s claim, therefore, may be something of a leap of faith, but Hania Allen makes a serious point about the debt this country owes to Polish men and women stretching back to the dark days of WW2.

Politics aside, Hania Allen may be allowed self deprecation of her skills as a pianist, but on this evidence there is do doubt whatsoever about her skills as a crime novelist. The Polish Detective is tautly plotted, full of intriguing characters and settings, with a thoroughly engaging new central character. It is published by Constable and is out in paperback on 9th August.

Fans of Scottish crime fiction might like to see what Fully Booked has in the way of reviews and features centred on this popular genre. Click the blue link to see what’s on offer.

THE POSTMAN DELIVERS . . . Allen, Brown & Jewell

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IT’S A DEPRESSING THOUGHT, but another week will see Midsummer – and thereafter the steady drip, drip, drip of the days getting incrementally shorter. Still, there’s Wimbledon, the World Cup and Test Cricket still to come – and some pretty impressive looking books on offer. Let’s start with:

THE POLISH DETECTIVE by Hania Allen

Hania-Allen_CarolineTrotter-Photography_2017Detectives come in all nationalities these days. Anya Lipska in her Kiszka and Kershaw series has explored the Polish angle, while one of the most formidable female operators in fiction, Victoria Iphigenia Warshawski is, of course Polish on her father’s side. Now, Hania  Allen (left) introduces us to DS Dania Gorska, described as “a stranger in a foreign land.” Crime however is multi-lingual and knows no national boundaries, and Gorska is assigned to the Police Scotland Specialist Crime Division in Dundee, on the banks of the River Tay. The Polish-born police officer becomes involved in the investigation of a bizarre series of killings which seem connected to a druidic cult.The Polish Detective is published by Constable and will be out in paperback on 9th August.

PRICE OF DUTY by Dale Brown

Dale BrownThis international military thriller also has a Polish connection. A despotic Russian president has built a devastating new weapon, and its first strike is against Warsaw, via malware which destroys the country’s banking system. As the rest of Europe’s financial world goes into a fatal tailspin, the President of The United States has to meet fire with fire, and she calls in flying ace Brad McLanahan and his deadly Scion team to thwart the ambitions of the megalomaniac Gennady Gryzslov. Price of Duty, by Dale Brown (right) was previously published in hardback and Kindle, but will be available as a Corsair paperback from 5th July.


WATCHING YOU by Lisa Jewell

 

Lisa JewellWhen Josephine ‘Joey’ Mullen – plus her new husband –  return from four years working abroad with nowhere to stay, they are grateful for the opportunity to crash in Joey’s brother’s house in Bristol, just until they get themselves settled. Joey’s older brother Jack is a respected consultant heart surgeon, with a staid and rather disapproving wife. As Joey looks for work, she becomes interested – too interested – in Jack’s next-door neighbour. Tom Fitzwilliam is a successful Head Teacher, brought in to re-invigorate a failing school. He is twice Joey’s age, but in spite of husband Alfie’s charm and good looks, she becomes obsessed with the fifty-five year old. What follows is a gripping and tense study in recklessness, obsession- and murder. This psychological thriller from Lisa Jewell (above left) will be published in all formats on 12th July.

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