Saturday 8 November 2008

A Not So Perfect Crime

When visiting somewhere new, I always like to seize the chance, if possible, to read a book set there. So my trip to Barcelona offered the ideal opportunity to sample a debut novel by a Spanish academic, Teresa Solana, called A Not So Perfect Crime. It’s just published by Bitter Lemon, who have made available some quite splendid books not previously available in English translation.

The novel is told by Eduard, one of two twin brothers, who run a detective agency together. In fact, it’s more or less a phoney operation, since neither of them is much good as a detective, and they invent a secretary to impress clients, spraying perfume around in their little office before pretending the girl has gone off on an errand. The office even has false doors leading nowhere, to give a grand impression to visitors.

When a top Catalan politician asks them to investigate whether his gorgeous wife is having an affair with a painter for whom she has apparently modelled. The shameless Borja, much the more entrepreneurial of the twins, extracts large sums of money from the client for doing very little, but when the wife ends up dead, our heroes find they may have bitten off more than they can chew.

This is a funny and enjoyable novel, and I was amused by the coincidence that one scene of the book took place in a cafĂ© where we’d had lunch twenty-four hours earlier. The twins are a memorable duo and there are some laugh-aloud scenes. The element of the book that satirises Catalan politics rather passed me by, but this didn’t spoil the fun. The zany plot is a mess – but, to some extent, that is the point: this is a sort of ‘anti-detective’ novel. If Solana brings the twins back, she will almost certainly have to treat the story-line more seriously, but I hope this doesn’t deter her from a follow-up. Such good characters deserve to live again.

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