I’m no literary expert or critic, so I can’t say whether A Shortcut to Paradise is or isn’t a good novel. But the fact was that if Borja and I hadn’t agreed to take on this case, I’d have put it back on the shelf at page thirty, and gone for a stroll. It got off to a good start with a murder on page three and looked promising, but as my children would say, the rest was rubbish, a real brain-clogging hotchpotch of loves, betrayals and disillusion, to my mind without rhyme or reason. Perhaps it might be a very good novel, I can’t deny that, but it was neverending.
Thus speaks Eduard Martinez, one of the twin detectives in Teresa Solana’s second novel, which takes its title from the prize-winning A Shortcut to Paradise penned by murder victim Marina Dolc. It’s a case inhabited by Barcelona’s literary glitterati, not all of whom write prize-winning rubbish. Amadeu Cabestany, for instance, produces literary novels of substance but is consigned to the runners-up podium. When Marina Dolc’s body is found, only hours after the prize ceremony, her brains beaten out by the trophy she has just won, Cabestany becomes prime suspect.
Twin brothers, Eduard and Borja Martinez are commissioned by Cabestany’s agent to prove his innocence. Thanks to Borja’s connections, through his married but socially privileged mistress, access all area is granted to Barcelona’s literary scene. Cue lampooning of the most satiric kind. As in the real world, literary fiction sells poorly while Marina Dolc’s trash rakes both cash and plaudits. Except this latest work, destined to be published posthumously, proves to be an out-of-character masterpiece, the genesis of which is revealed in a well-signalled but entirely satisfying comic set-piece.
Cabestany is innocent – no spoiler that because before Marina Dolc’s body is found, he himself is the victim of another crime; the perpetrator of which being the only one who can provide an alibi. The ironies are only just beginning. This criminal isn’t really wicked. Just a desperate literary translator, struggling to keep the roof over his family’s head. (More comment on the injustices of the literary world?). As Cabestany is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, society has further indignities to throw his way. The righteous indignation this reader felt on his behalf added to the enjoyment of the read.
Uncovering the real perpetrator proves too much for the Martinez brothers, who are just as inept as they were on their first outing. Though they are savvy enough to realise this and so enlist the services of a retired detective. Plus they are great company to be with in Barcelona, not too proud to make the most of the tourist attractions when they find themselves short of cash.
Human statues had been the fashion on the Ramblas for years. They stood still and when someone threw them a coin, they changed position or performed. Some were trite and some were sophisticated …. some were amusing and some were scary, like the guy doing a bloody decapitated head routine served up on a silver platter on a white tablecloth ……. I wasn’t at all clear that the sudden appearance from nowhere of an amateur dressed up like a yuppie would be welcomed by the mime professionals …. I hoped my brother wouldn’t return from his artistic debut with a black eye or his elegant Armani suit in tatters.
I’m pleased to report that Borja returns to mime again and even if I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the ending, I hoping that a third in the series will enable me to revisit the Martinez brothers and their wonderful city, Barcelona.