Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
Teresa Solana’s second thriller set in Barcelona starts with a best-selling author being given a short cut to paradise via a fatal blow with her prize statuette and ends with the murderer being given another short cut to paradise via the delusions of insanity.
But as the incompetence of the local police, an unfortunate series of events for the innocent accused, and the machinations of the local literary Mafiosi threaten to take other people to the same place, there is plenty for private detectives Eduard Martinez and his twin brother Borja Masdeu to explore between the two points.
I was dubious about the cover claim that this is “scathingly funny” until I reached the mid-third and found myself laughing out loud. If you want to compare this book to something, then it would have to be Tom Sharpe’s first Wilt novel or Sharpe’s own send-up of the literary establishment, The Great Pursuit.
The funniest parts, though, are the sections where Solana abandons Eduard as the narrator and turns to a third-person point of view; those sections also happen to be sometimes dropped out of chronological order, and we read the life story of some minor character who has some reason to appear in the story line. For, by chance, Amadeu Cabestany, the innocent suspect can only be alibied by dubious characters who have strayed on this occasion from the straight and narrow, and later on remand he becomes again the innocent victim, this time of grotesque allegations, leading to even more bizarre (and comic) investigations by the police, Tom Sharpe-style.
Between the struggles of national and international literature, of poseurs and ingénues, of national languages and dialects, of grant-givers and free-loaders, and of course between crime and punishment there are always spaces for humour to spark and Solana finds all of them. The first book in the series was called A Not So Perfect Crime, that may be true, but I suspect it makes pretty good reading if A Shortcut to Paradise is anything to go by.