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Claudia Pineiro: A Crack in the Wall.

BITTER LEMON PRESS
First published in the United Kingdom in 2013 by
Bitter Lemon Press, 37 Arundel Gardens, London 
www.bitterlemonpress.com 

£8.99 SIZE: 228 pages

ISBN: 978-1908524-089, 11. 90 Euro.

Pablo Simó is an architect employed by a small company.  He is one of three people.   At home, he has a wife and a daughter.  The symmetry, one suspects, is deliberate because like the rest of ‘A Crack In The Wall’ it evokes a claustrophobic inconsequential existence.  Pablo has an eye for detail.  He prepares his drawings with an expensive Caran d’Ache pencil.  He is fastidious but his concern over detail also enables Pablo to pretend what is stultifying is interesting.  It allows him to ignore what might threaten. 

This is the wall that the architect builds for himself.  Inevitably, a crack eventually appears and what it takes is the usual combination of a memory from the past and a warning about the future.  ‘A Crack In The Wall’ is a complex novel that explores interesting themes such as identity, our inability to form sound judgements, destiny, morality and guilt.  

A good test of a crime novel is whether it would stand or survive without the crime.  ‘A Crack In The Wall’ passes the test. 

There is a crime in ‘A Crack In The Wall’ but the novel would still be gripping if it had simply been a past indiscretion that haunted Pablo.  Indeed, the guilt that haunts Pablo only partially explains his behaviour after he meets Leonor, the young woman who has the ability to remind Pablo of his past. 

‘A Crack In The Wall’ should appeal to readers who like their novels to have measured pace that can grip the reader, not because action is promised but because the author persuades us to care about the fate of the characters.  Simó may disappoint himself but he will fascinate readers.  It is addictive watching a thoughtful man in circumstances that he not only cannot understand but also feels obliged to create.  The nature of Pablo is reflected in how the story is told.  The measured amoral eye hints at the style of the slow burn thrillers by the great Patricia Highsmith, another female writer interested in the dark inadequacy of the male personality.

‘A Crack In The wall’ proceeds along a path that few readers will anticipate and although some may expect the final twist because there have previously been hints at the fragile identity of Pablo it is no less satisfying.  At the beginning of the book there is a reference to the essay by Scott Fitzgerald, ‘The Crack Up’.  

The skill of this crime novel is that we imagine and feel for a fairly normal human being caught in a life that he finds unacceptable.  What Fitzgerald describes is the torment of the exceptionally haunted.  The pleasure of reading ‘A Crack In The Wall’ is derived from watching in slow steps an ordinary man finally do something exceptional.   A man who eventually not only needs to redefine his reality but reshape the dream over which he laboured for so long with his expensive pencil.  If that sounds strange, wait until you read the book. 

Howard Jackson