Book Quote:

“My brother looked at me as if he were deeply offended. I didn’t think he was in the business of stealing the manuscripts of prize novels written by writers who get murdered in five-star hotels, but it was the only logical explanation that came to mind given the evidence before my eyes”

Book Review:

Review by Guy Savage  (APR 4, 2011)

It’s been a long time since I’ve read such a light hearted crime novel. In fact Teresa Solana’s latest mystery A Shortcut to Paradise is so amusing, it is very likely to stretch its appeal beyond the usual crime aficionados. The novel, however, is not a cozy, by any means. Instead it’s a satirically funny inside look at the highly competitive world of prize-winning Catalan literature. Some of us may not automatically think of bitter, murderous rivalry between competing authors who seek a lucrative prize, but then again the Booker Prize manages to stir some controversy every year–along with the occasional highly entertaining “what-the-hell-were-they-thinking” comment from judges, authors and readers.

Set in Barcelona, A Shortcut to Paradise concerns the brutal murder of prize winning Catalan author Marina Dolc, who has just won the Sixth edition of the Golden Apple Fiction prize. The prize is a 100,000 euros and the commemorative marble statue: “a misshapen fruit with a bite taken out, clutched by a hand attached to a square of Thassos marble that served as a pedestal.” Someone, apparently, was upset that Marina won the prize, and shortly after the award ceremony, that “someone” followed Marina up to her hotel room and bashed her head in with the marble statue. To add to the bizarre nature of the crime, the details of the murder mirrored those in Marina’s latest prize-winning novel, A Shortcut to Paradise. Given the timing of the murder, and the choice of murder weapon, obviously someone was so incensed that Marina won the prize, that she was murdered as a result.

Shortly after the murder, rival author, and runner-up to the prize, Amadeu Cabestany is arrested. He’d considered the prize “earmarked” for him, and when Marina won, he was initially stunned but then bitterly disappointed enough to make a memorable scene in public. The fact he has no alibi for the time of the murder makes him the perfect patsy. But Amadeu’s agent, Claudia hires the twins, Eduard Martinez and Borja “Pep” Masdeu to uncover the real killer. Because Amadeu is withdrawn, bitter and weird, he becomes the natural scapegoat for the crime, and it takes a considerable amount of ingenuity and luck on the part of Eduard and Borja to uncover the truth. Their search plunges the twins into the unexpectedly nasty world of the professional writer–a world in which smiles, compliments, and insincerity hide bitter rivalry.

The authors Marina and Amadeu create completely different books, and clearly there’s a thread of amusing speculation concerning the issue of literary merit under the text. Marina’s books are more-or-less trash but instant bestsellers with titles such as: The Rage of the Goddesses, Love Is Not For Me, and Milk Chocolate. On the other hand, Amadeu’s novels which are largely indecipherable sink into oblivion. He is “one of these brilliant, misunderstood writers, who has surrendered himself to literature body and soul.” Are trashy novels “worthy” since they sell and get people to read? What’s the use of a brilliant, intellectual novel if only a lousy 100 copies are sold? These are questions that lurk under the surface of this lively mystery.

This is the second novel, following A Not So Perfect Crime by Teresa Solana to feature the twins who are not strictly Private Investigators. The two men, complete opposites, operate a business called Trau consultants. Now in their forties, with spotty employment histories, the twins created their own business and try to stay one step ahead of any tax liabilities. Borja is the flamboyant risk-taker while Eduard is the stable workhorse who narrates the tale. Some really funny scenes take place between the two brothers as they operate on a shoestring budget and try to shift work to each other.

A Shortcut to Paradise, full of tongue-in-cheek humour, doesn’t place the emphasis on the crime, but rather the novel concentrates on Barcelona life. The cast of characters are hit in various ways by the bust of the real estate bubble, and they all struggle to survive and sometimes step outside the bounds of legality. The delightful thing here, however, is the behind-the-scenes look at Spain’s literary milieu: the viciousness, the bitchiness and the sheer wicked competitiveness of it all:

“To tell the truth, I can’t say I’ve been to many literary soirées in my lifetime, but I’d always imagined them quite differently. You know, cultured, polite people conversing in measured tones, and naturally enough, disagreeing courteously and never raising their voices. Everybody here was screaming insults. The scene around me was disconcerting, to put it mildly.”

(Translated by Peter Bush.)

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 3 readers
PUBLISHER: Bitter Lemon Press; Tra edition (February 15, 2011)
REVIEWER: Guy Savage
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Publisher page on Teresa Solana
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More literary settings:

A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé

Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willett


April 4, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Humorous, Mystery/Suspense, Sleuths Series, Spain, Translated, y Award Winning Author

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