Bitter Lemon Press, 2011
originally published as Drecera al paradis, 2007
translated by Peter Bush
In book number two of Solana's series to feature the twin brothers Borja and Eduard, for the most part I stayed highly entertained by this author's imagination and her writing. I say "for the most part" because while the brothers are fun, and while I looked forward to seeing how they'd pull the murderer out of their respective hats, the story is also punctuated by a couple of rather ridiculous set pieces (one involving a near orgy due to overpowering canapes) and the narrative sort of meanders a bit before the brothers do their usual stuff in trying to bring the killer to justice. I did enjoy Solana's usual pokes at Barcelona society, and here she adds another object of satire, centering around the literary world. While I had a good time reading it, I have to say that I liked the first book a little bit better -- it had much more of a crime-fiction feel to it than this one, the ending of which just left me just sort of flat.
Ernest Fabia, translator and family man, has a serious problem. His bank has just called and gives him two weeks to come up with the four months of payment he owes on his mortgage. He was one of the multitudes caught up in the dreaded real estate bubble, and after a car accident, a new baby and unforeseen expenses with his older child, Ernest is in a world of financial hurt. The dreaded Final Notice that he's read x number of times is all he can think about, and he decides to take matters into his own hands -- he decides he'll rob someone rich to make up for the money shortfall. His randomly-picked victim turns out to be Amadeu Cabestany, an author who has left a party at the Ritz hotel after not winning a literary prize he'd been hoping for. Ernest robs him, leaving him 10 euros for cabfare, and when Amadeu returns to the hotel, he is placed under arrest for the murder of Marina Dolç, his rival for and winner of the award. It's obvious that Amadeu is not guilty but he had been overheard in a heated rant against Marina and to the police, that's motive enough. But convinced he is innocent, Amadeu's agent hires Borja and Eduard to clear his name and get him out of jail. In the meantime, Ernest, who is basically a good man, is afraid to read the papers, so has no idea that Amadeu's been arrested, and to take his mind off his troubles, heads off to a retreat where he can concentrate on his translation work. He and the taxi driver who returned Amadeu to the hotel are the only alibi witnesses; the taxi driver's not talking because he's just out of prison himself and driving the cab with no license and Ernest is away trying not to think about what he's done. The brothers take the case, along with a retired cop for help, but with very little to go by in the way of alibi, it's going to be tough for Amadeu to be exonerated.
This story kind of moves all over the place, with much less emphasis on the crime and its solution than in the previous series installment. It's not as tight as it could have been, and the author spends way too much time setting up one of the big gags in this book which I thought was kind of ridiculous anyway, the runaway rumor that Amadeu is not only a murderer, but a cannibal as well. Borja and Eduard are gone from the story for a long time which was a bit frustrating while I waited for them to return to get down to business solving the crime. And then there's the ending and the solution to the crime ... I can guess at what happened, but really, after leading me all the way to the end, making me wait for the story to resume while the silly, even farcical set pieces played out, I think I deserved more of a why. I have to say that my feelings are mixed about this book -- it's a "meh" for me.
I wouldn't let my less than excited reaction put anyone off if considering the book or the series -- it's still fun, the brothers are perfectly paired, the satire is very well executed, and it has received some sterling ratings. I'm just soooo picky! I'll be moving on to the next book, The Sound of One Hand Killing (which is supposed to hit the US May 13th but nah nah, I have a UK copy already), which should say something positive about this author and especially her quirky protagonists. I'd recommend it to those who've started the series and wonder about continuing -- yes, by all means do!
crime fiction from Spain