The private consultants who aren’t quite detectives who made their debut in A Not So Perfect Crime are back for another adventure among the upper echelons of Barcelona society. This time they are tasked with proving that Amadeu Cabestany was not responsible for the murder of famous novelist Marina Dolç The police have arrested him on the grounds that he was heard to threaten Marina and on the night she was killed she had won a prestigious literary award that he was sure he was about to win. But his agent and some-time lover does not believe in his guilt and she turns to Eduard and Borja for assistance. They discover that Amadeu’s alibi is very shaky as there are no witnesses to his leaving the hotel before Dolç’s death and being mugged at a local disco and no one else seems to have much of a motive. They do however start to learn some interesting things about the famous author’s life.
There’s something about a holiday week that calls for lighter than normal reading and I was quite chuffed to find this book unread on my shelves as I had such fond memories of the first book in the series. Happily this one too is clever and funny and thoroughly engaging; perfect for reading on a warm summer day with a glass (or two) of sangria. It’s probably not the book to reach for if you like your mystery solving to be at the forefront for the length of the novel but if you don’t mind the odd (in some cases very odd) tangent or three you could do a lot worse.
Eduard is a former lefty radical who spent 20 years as a middle-class banker before setting up in business with his twin brother Borja (formerly known as Pep). We see most of the tale through his eyes as he recounts the brothers’ attempts to uncover evidence and a suspect or two. Though not as strongly as he was in the first book, he is still vaguely put out by Borja’s social climbing, especially when it requires Eduard to wear classy suits rather than his preferred jeans and otherwise operate out of his comfort zone (heaven forbid he must spend a night in a five-star hotel). But at heart the relationship between the two brothers is sweet and a definite highlight of the novel, being the source of much humour.
The rest of the humour comes from the observations about local society. Although I know nothing about Catalan literary circles the depictions of the social events with public displays of bonhomie hiding private hatreds and petty jealousies was pitch-perfect. I just inserted the names of local authors in the roles of literary versus popular fiction authors to make the humour complete.Solana seems to take great relish in satirising literary circles and I suspect she particularly enjoyed writing the scene in which most of the players are accidentally drugged so that their true natures are on full display.
More poignant moments in the novel come from the short chapters told from perspectives other than Eduard’s. Among the ‘character vignettes’ we meet a man driven to undertake an armed robbery even though he has no criminal record, get a surreal glimpse of prison life for Amadeu who the other prisoners stay clear of due to his resemblance to a movie murderer and his seeming ability to cause grown men to die at his feet and even briefly meet a long-suffering policewoman who has to wrangle a rookie cop with a big mouth. All of these are delightful interludes as well as providing little nuggets of information which help make sense of the overall story.
The crime’s resolution offered a slightly unsatisfactory note in that it didn’t quite make sense but overall I thoroughly enjoyed this slightly surreal and very witty tale of literary madness which gave me one more reason to be glad I’m a reader not a writer. I am pleased to learn (via excellent Spanish-reading blogger Jose Ignacio at The Game’s Afoot) that a third book has been released. Translation now please.
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I’m slightly cheating in using this as the last book for my What’s In a Name challenge in the category of book with a size in the title. I suppose short isn’t officially a size but it will have to do as the book I was half way through reading (At Close Quarters) fell into the washing up sink and didn’t really recover as well as I might have hoped.
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My rating 3.5/5
Translator Peter Bush
Publisher Bitter Lemon Press 
Length 284 pages
Book Series #2 in the Eduard and Borja series
Source I bought it
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