This book was part of my own personal reading challenge, which is to read books in Spanish on a more regular basis. My target is to read one Spanish language novel per month. I missed out in January, so this was my first read of the year in Spanish. And Un Crimen Imperfecto turned out to be a very good choice. It is a crime novel, though a most unusual one of that genre. For a start the two main characters, brothers Eduard and Borja, are neither policemen nor private detectives. At least they are not the kind of private detectives that get involved in murders. For a start their so-called company doesn’t legally exist and their work is primarily as very, very discreet fixers for the very rich in Barcelona society.
This all changes with their latest commission. Which at first appears straight forward enough. Is the wife of a prominent member of the Catalan Parliament having a secret affair with a painter? To avoid any scandal, everything must be kept hush hush, which is why our pair of somewhat amateur sleuths get the job. However things very soon take a dramatic turn for the worse when the wife turns up dead, as a result of poisoning. The MP keeps on the brothers to carry out their own underhand investigation, in the hope of keeping any salacious skeletons well and trully locked up in the cupboard. As a result the pair get involved in various escapades including a diverting trip to Paris.
This is a very entertaining and witty novel which kept me enthralled from beginning to end. The brothers do eventually solve the crime, though the ending is most unexpected. Much of the charm of the book lies in the characters themselves as there is not too much action or great suspense. Not just Eduard and Borja, but their family and friends come to life as real and interesting people. As do some of the inhabitants of Barcelona’s high society, who are though, given a rather less flattering portrait.
It is also a very cleverly written book. Told in the first person by one of the brothers - Eduard - very little is what it seems at first sight. I will not reveal these little mysteries as they are part of the charm of the novel. Un Crimen Imperfecto is Teresa Solana’s first novel. She is a native of Barcelona and still lives and works in the city. The book was originally published in Catalan and Solana herself translated it into Spanish. For those we don’t fancy trying the novel in Spanish or Catalan it is also available in a highly regarded English translation under the title A Not so Perfect Crime, published by The Bitter Lemon Press. Well worth reading.
For anyone interested in literature from the Spanish speaking world there is a new reading challenge up and running. This one focuses on Argentinian literature and is hosted by Jennifer Murray at Ficciones. You don’t need to know any Spanish to follow the challenge as the idea is to encourage people to read books in translation. The site offers a useful introductory list of possible books. I will definitely include one or two Argentinian novels in my Spanish language books to read. Buena lectura a todos y todas.