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Book Review: A Shortcut to Paradise by Teresa Solana

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The Eduard Martinez and Borja “Pep” Masdeu twins try to make a living by working a variety of odd jobs requiring a certain level of discretion for the rich of Barcelona. Most, if not all of their clients are referred to them through word of mouth, which makes for plausible entry into all manner of strange situations and different substrata of the privileged.

In A Shortcut to Paradise, the two twins step into the role of detectives as their services are engaged by the agent of Amadeu Cabestan, a serious writer who finds himself charged with murdering another writer of a more commercial bent, Marina Dolc, at the Barcelona Ritz.

This book is a second installment chronicling the twins’ comic forays into Barcelona’s upper crust world, blending comedy, crime and dose of brusque commentary on the various social strata through which the twins bumble through. 

 Dolc was in the hotel to receive Golden Apples Fiction Award. Cabestan came in second place and was heard making what were latter interpreted as threats. Indeed, Dolc did not enjoy her honor for long. Someone she knew smashed her head in with a statue of David, and then cleverly gave himself an apparently air-tight alibi through an ingenious use of the common watch.

Amadeu Cabestan is arrested as the prime suspect. But he’s clearly innocent — despondent over his fate, he ventures to the Up and Down Club where Barcelona’s pretty young things congregate. It is outside this upscale club that he is mugged at the time of Dolc’s murder. But the mugger vanishes and no one knows about his existence. Others who could provide clues have good reasons to stay mum.

 As Eduard and Borja stumble through the Catalonian literary world, including a party where the literati bare all in a drug-induced trance, as they search for clues to Cabestan’s innocence, it soon dawns on one brother that they are in way over their head and that at stake is a man’s life. They need a real detective to help them narrow down the list of likely suspects. But when they try to flush out the man who seemed to have been in two places at the same time, they suffer a blow as their movie-inspired reenactment of the crime yields nothing in the way of a confession from the prime suspect.

The accused himself, meanwhile, becomes the center of fantastic rumors regarding his peculiar eating habits, which makes him a feared creature indeed in the prison where he’s held pending investigation. Solana’s incisive wit and scathing humor masterfully present a dark comedy of errors of which Cabestan falls victim to as a commentary on guilt and innocence and the power of faulty information in shaping perception of the accused.

Solana’s vision creates a real world populated with good characters (particularly interesting is the desperate family man turned mugger who is also Cabestan’s alibi) who have deeply human reasons for the sometimes strange things that they do. The twins Eduard and Borja are likable: just two guys trying to make a living in a tough economy, and you end up laughing and worrying about them as they stumble from one situation to the next.

Solana is not just an astute observer of the human nature, she also weaves a good yarn out of these life strands into an often funny, and sometimes darkly so, tale, which is, despite its mystery core, strangely about life itself and its comical turns and often inscrutable mysteries.

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About A. Jurek

A. Jurek is one of the editors at Blogcritics. Contact me at: a.jurek@blogcritics.org