Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | August 4, 2011

Another Cool Summer Read


During summer, I want nothing better than a nice mystery to fill the time between a ride to the beach or even on my daily commute to Manhattan. Sure, I do read more literary stuff from time to time – but like any
human being, I like to give my gray cells a rest while still stimulating my mind by trying to figure out the clues dropped by the author as I turn the pages. Sometimes I can guess who the murderer is (which is why I have given
Agatha Christie a rest – I cracked her system), but sometimes I welcome that element of surprise.

This is the case of A Not So Perfect Crime, the debut novel by Barcelona-based Teresa Solana (Bitter Lemon Press, 287 pages,  $ 14.95) – a beautifully written murder mystery that pokes fun at the Spanish society and its politics. This first-person story begins as two shady detectives whose work is to basically clean up after Barcelona’s upper classes. They are fraternal twins, but no one except the two brothers knows about it. After having disappeared from town for the longest time one of them (Borja) takes up a fake identity as the heir of a noble family from Madrid. His brother Eduard
keeps the information secret – even from his own wife because Borja can provide
much opportunity for business – even if his way of conducting things is less
than orthodox.

So the day comes when conservative member of the Spanish parliament
Lluis Font comes to the brothers to ask for help in solving a problem: his wife
was the subject of a portrait by a famous Catalan artist. He wants to know if
his wife – who makes a living as an interior decorator – is cheating on him,
because if this ever came to light, his political career would be over (he doesn’t
seem to mind being cuckolded – he just wants to advance in the party).

The two brothers begin to shadow the woman, and seemingly
find nothing of consequence – until one day she ingests a poisoned marron glace
(candied chestnuts, a delicacy from the region) and dies. Eduard and Borja
begin investigating the murder, and find an intricate web that finds more and
more suspects – all of whom had a reason to kill Mrs. Font.

Solana drops a few clues during the story, but thanks to her careful writing, we only find out who the culprit is almost at the end  – which comes out as surprising as they come. I could say that A Not So Perfect Crime is a highly recommended read for fans of whodunits with a sense of humor.

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