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by Teresa Solana, Peter Bush, trans.
Bitter Lemon Press, September 2008
295 pages
8.99 GBP
ISBN: 1904738346

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

We're not currently over-run with crime novels translated from the Spanish. And if A NOT SO PERFECT CRIME is anything to go by, someone should go and remedy this soon as they like.

Apparently it's Teresa Solana's first published novel, although she has others stashed away in her bottom drawer. An enterprising publisher might like to go and prise these free of the socks and knickers, then . . .

A NOT SO PERFECT CRIME is ostensibly a PI novel set in Barcelona. But it's thoroughly off the wall with a dry, dark sense of humour that has a strong sense of the absurd to it.

Eduard and Borja are private detectives who get called in to help Barcelona's rich and famous keep their dirty linen out of the public eye. This time top politician Lluís Font sees a portrait of his wife in an exhibition and is convinced she must have had an affair with the artist.

So the twin PIs start asking questions – and then Lídia Font is poisoned by a marron glacé in a box delivered anonymously to the house. Their enquiries take them through Barcelona society and even to Paris in the lead-up to Christmas and New Year.

As a crime novel A NOT SO PERFECT CRIME is a tad slow-moving and with an ending that verges on the cop-out – although it could be argued that it's not out of keeping with the rest of the book. But as a fresh and witty piece of writing, it's incomparable. Solana's strengths are her dialogue (aided by an exuberant translation from the original Catalan from Peter Bush), her characterisation and a very beady eye for the absurd.

So we've got twins who no one even knows are brothers. They've got a chic office with a 'secretary' who's always out on errands or on holiday, with doors that go nowhere and where the temperature tends towards the arctic.

And their private life is suitably eccentric as well. Eduard is the respectable family man, albeit with a mother-in-law who fancies herself as an artist, while Borja has complicated romantic liaisons.

I suspect that if you're a resident of Barcelona or up-to-date on Spanish society and politics, that you might get more from this than just an unusual and entertaining read. But for the rest of us, let's grab the latter enthusiastically and hope for more of Solana's work to be translated into English.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, November 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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