A Not So Perfect Crime by Teresa Solana, translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush, is a biting social commentary on Catalan society, which won the 2007 Brigada 21 Prize.
In Barcelona non-identical twin brothers Borja, and the narrator Eduard work as confidential investigators for the very wealthy on matters that require the utmost discretion, and definitely no paperwork and invoices.
Pep, who disappeared for years and returned as Borja, is posing as an aristocrat with the manners that enable him to charm his way around those upper class circles, that Eduard finds very intimidating. No one knows that the twins are brothers, not even Eduard's wife Montse.
The brothers lives are a clever charade to maintain that professional image. Their office waiting room has false doors to non-existent private offices [always being painted by decorators], and their secretary is always out of the office to ensure complete discretion, and because she only exists as a perfume spray and a woman's magazine.
The twins private lives are very different; Borja, has a rich mistress Merche, who helps keep him in the style to which he aspires; Eduard, has twin daughters and a young son, and is married to Montse, who now runs an Alternative Centre for Natural Wellbeing after fifteen miserable years as a school psychologist.
......she couldn't face any more juvenile delinquents, mafiosi fathers, sadistic adolescents, racist mothers, pregnant teenagers and skinheads, not to mention an acquiescent Authority too politically correct to even hear mention of such things.
Smooth politician Lluis Font consults Borja, and Eduard, about a painting by Pau Ferrer of his beautiful wife Lidia. Font believes the painting, which he has bought when he spotted it in a catalogue, may signify that Lidia and Ferrer were having an affair that will be bound to cause a scandal, and affect his political future.
The twins begin to follow the politician's glamourous wife around Barcelona's cafes and tapas bars, and then Lidia Font is found poisoned by a marron glace, a confection that all her friends and enemies know she adores.
The twins have to deal with forged paintings, a trip to Paris, Montse's exotic sister Lola, and a society that makes clear demarcations between the classes, before solving the mystery.
"Stuff and nonsense! Good taste depends on your pocket. It's a business like any other. When they say someone has good taste, it's either because he's rich or because he's trying to ape the rich."
A Not So Perfect Crime is a charming amusing book, written with a sense of sharp humour, full of clever dialogue and social commentary.
Obviously the non-Catalan will probably miss a lot of the cleverness, but I enjoyed this lighter read and look forward to reading more about these intriguing characters, and the city of Barcelona, in the future.