BITTER LEMON PRESS, £8.99 Order from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
A Shortcut to Paradise, By Teresa Solana
Criminal capers in Barcelona
Tuesday 22 March 2011
Marina Dolc, a bestselling writer, is clubbed to death by someone she lets into her room at the Barcelona Ritz. The murder weapon is her heavyweight trophy, so emulating the plot of her winning novel. A sycophantic critic writes her obituary, closing with: "You will be on the road to paradise, taking a short cut between the stars. Speaking Catalan and charming the angels with your smile". Her melodramatic novel is called, like this one, A Shortcut to Paradise.
Teresa Solana's second novel featuring the detective twins Borja (the city-wise one) and Eduard (the homely one) is part roman à clef, part a plot within a plot. The quantity of the cast and the subplots is further compounded by bit-part characters with the sketchiest of backgrounds, with women called Maria, Marina, Mariajo or Mariona, Montse, Merche... or Maite. Clues are scattered like the breadcrumbs left by Hansel and Gretel, and the whole has the implausible air of a fairy-tale night where only the unexpected is predictable.
Not that confusion matters nearly as much as you might think. Once aboard the roller-coaster, the reader is swept onwards, disbelief firmly suspended, and critical faculties sparked on every occasion that the author introduces another suspect, another decoy – or another genre. It's pure Agatha Christie, in assembling the full cast for a reconstruction of the scene preceding the crime; pure Conan Doyle, in the relationship of the elder twin Borja to his sensible sidekick, Eduard; and sheer Dorothy L Sayers in the retired cop, Lluis Arquer. Yet the brightest star is the city of Barcelona, here seamed by taxi rides leading to the Up & Down club in Port Olimpic; to a "modernist salon" in Gracia (with an aphrodisiac meal contributed by Ferran Adria); along the briny Barceloneta, then back to the Hotel Ritz, scene of the crime.
In Britain, crime is the one genre outside of world classics that gets translated regularly. It travels well, but this book has to work hard to hit home in the target language. That it does is a testament not only to the translator, Peter Bush, but also to the fact that here, too, we have more than our fair share of bad writers on good stipends; of sponsorship corrupted by personal and political interests. And we can appreciate a finishing touch that involves sending an unpopular writer to Coventry – or to Antarctica. Satire, after all, is a universal language.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 10 ways we damage our teeth – without realising
- 2 Fifa corruption arrests: Nike reported to be 'multinational sportswear company' at centre of bribery claims over Brazil shirt deal
- 3 Facebook Messenger sends 'creepily' precise location data, as revealed by Marauders Map Chrome extension
- 4 Bahar Mustafa: Goldsmiths Students' Union diversity officer to keep her job after vote of no confidence petition fails
- 5 Photo of wedding guest proposing to girlfriend in front of bride and groom goes viral
Grace of Monaco film panned: Screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman as movie gets US debut
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
ASAP Rocky gives nauseating response to explicit Rita Ora rap: 'I'm not saying she's a terrible person'
San Andreas 3D, film review: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's disaster movie has clear fault lines
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote