The Barcelona Journal Murders

Written by Jonathan Coen Daifuku
Review by A. K. Bell

It is 1906 and the photographer C makes a living teaching the young ladies of Barcelona high-society to take pictures – a suitably amusing skill for women destined to be rich wives. Unfortunately, our professor develops a fondness for one of these ladies, Celia Montalban, and after a steamy session in the dark room it becomes evident someone knows – and demands money to keep silent. The blackmailer can ruin Celia’s reputation, and as to our hero, he will be disgraced.

Add in a sequence of murders – four young women tied up and strangled – and C is called in by the Guardia Civil to photograph the hapless victims.

The story is told through C’s journal entries. Other than his reflection on the murders and the blackmail, his descriptions of his love for Celia, his desire for Lulu (his special lady of the night), the entries also allow detailed insight into the Barcelona of the early 20th century. The reader is carried along on walks through the city, to long evenings with C’s tertulia – a Spanish tradition in which men meet to discuss intellectual matters and gossip in general.

It is evident the author knows both the time and the place, but occasionally all that knowledge results in extended passages which showcase the author’s research rather than drive the story forward. Pace becomes an issue, and the novel would have benefited from being substantially reduced from its present 700 pages. On the whole, this is an enjoyable read – despite the odd missing word and the quirky formatting Mr Daifuku is a competent and engaging writer, building a complex story round a well-developed protagonist.

E-edition reviewed