Bitter Lemon, £8.99. Order for £8.54 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

The Sound of One Hand Killing, By Teresa Solana

 

Teresa Solana is already known to us, as are her terrible twins, through two previous crime novels. Again translated by Peter Bush, The Sound of One Hand Killing is, however, the first in the series in which Solana and her twin Barcelona private eyes, Borja ("Pep") and Eduard Masdeu, actually meet on the page.

The novelist appears early on, to solicit the detectives' somewhat unlikely collaboration in her research into the topic of alternative therapies. Cue two apparently coincidental murders: one in the apartment above the detective agency, and the other in the exclusive pseudo-oriental therapy centre on the smartest side of town.

The first targets a CIA agent in possession of a unique memory stick whose contents are allegedly capable of undermining world capitalism. The second is of Horaci Bou, responsible for running a team of quacks ministering to the rich and gullible. In a multiplication of dualities, statues feature in both cases: a stone Buddha the murder weapon of choice in the latter instance, and the pursuit of a priceless Assyrian artefact – the "Lioness of Baghdad" – in the former.

The cast is completed by the inhabitants of Barcelona, many afflicted by the financial crisis, particularly in places most frequented by the twins: the upmarket restaurants favoured by Borja, and the modest cafés that are Eduard's haunts. Their immediate circles involve a now familiar assortment of wives and partners, children and neighbours, none of whom gets in the way of the racing plot. As one improbability piles on the last, the finale falls into place as several houses of cards collapse together.

There's no better way to find your way around both sides of the social Diagonal bisecting Barcelona than by pursuing the criminal habits of those who profiteer from even the most acute of recessions. While the digressions on culinary specialities are worthy of Catalan crime writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, those on Hippocrates and the Elamite Empire will delight readers who like their fictional rapids alternated with pools of Zen contemplation.

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