In something of a rarity for me I bought this book solely based on the blurb I read at the publisher’s website. It’s the the 13th of 21 books I need to read to complete my extreme global reading challenge and, set in Spain, is the last book on the European leg of this virtual trip.
Eduard and Borja are non-identical twin brothers, though they don’t tell anyone (for reasons that remain a bit murky). Having not seen each other for many years they now run a business together which is a kind of private detective agency (with the emphasis more on the privacy than the detection). Essentially they undertake confidential assignments for Barcelona’s wealthy and influential people. One day a politician with ambitions of his Party’s highest office, Lluis Font, asks them to discover who painted a portrait he found of his wife and to determine if she was having an affair with the painter. He is, he says, troubled by the prospect of a scandal that might damage his chances of further political success. Before long though the brothers find themselves investigating an all together nastier crime than possible infidelity.
It is a book of small details that paint a deliciously funny portrait of the brothers and the wider society in which they live. As the book’s narrator Eduard introduces himself and his brother and explains how it is that no one would know they are brothers unless they were told. Borja is stylish and sophisticated, Eduard prefers corduroy trousers and lace-up shoes; Borja has trotted the globe for twenty years while Eduard worked in a bank; and “Borja is right wing (for aesthetic reasons, he claims) and [Eudard] soldiers on as a non-voting disillusioned left-winger”. How could I not love such a character? Despite these differences the brothers really do get on rather well and as they fumble their way through an investigation which turns more serious than it first appeared their sibling relationship is shown to be quite strong and rather sweet.
I suspect I only scratched the surface of the satirical aspects of the novel as I’m just not that knowledgeable about Catalan politics or society though even I couldn’t miss some of the not-so-gentle gibes as the wealthy were pilloried and juxtaposed with Eduard’s middle class surrounds. These aspects do sometimes take precedence over the mystery, which at times seems like it might never be solved by ‘detectives’ who don’t even carry a camera and who are more concerned with finding a parking spot in crowded Barcelona than employing standard tailing techniques, but there is an old-fashioned whodunnit within this book too. The introduction of a series of possible suspects provides the perfect device for the author to show Catalan society in many of its guises.
Sometimes it takes a while for me to ‘get into’ a book and on other occasions I know within the first few pages that it’s my kind of thing. Happily A Not So Perfect Crime fell into the later category. The book is superbly translated (from the Catalan) by Peter Bush who has retained a speedily flowing and delightfully funny tale. The fact that the story turned out to have a surprisingly thoughtful ending, musing on the subject of justice and whose job it is to hand it out, pushed the book to a four-star rating on my scale. Scrumptious.
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My rating 4/5
Translator Peter Bush Publisher Bitter Lemon Press [this translation 2008, original edition 2006]; ISBN 9781904738343; Length 286 pages
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