Source: Review copy
Publication : Out in e-book now and in paperback on 28th February 2018 from Orenda Books
After convicting a superior for corruption and shooting off a gangster’s crown jewels, the career of Hamburg’s most hard-bitten state prosecutor, Chastity Riley, has taken a nose dive: she has been transferred to the tedium of witness protection to prevent her making any more trouble.
However, when she is assigned to the case of an anonymous man lying under police guard in hospital – almost every bone in his body broken, a finger cut off, and refusing to speak in anything other than riddles – Chastity’s instinct for the big, exciting case kicks in.
Using all her powers of persuasion, she soon gains her charge’s confidence, and finds herself on the trail to Leipzig, a new ally, and a whole heap of lethal synthetic drugs. When she discovers that a friend and former colleague is trying to bring down Hamburg’s Albanian mafia kingpin single-handedly, it looks like Chas Riley’s dull life on witness protection really has been short-lived…
I feel very privileged to be starting the blog tour for Simone Buchholz’s Blue Night. I do love an intelligent, kick-ass female protagonist and Chastity Reilly is all that and more.
Blue Night takes us to a cold, wet Hamburg where Chas is based. Recently demoted as a result of her accusation that her superior is corrupt she is now side-lined and working as a victim protection officer in the Hamburg prosecutor’s department. As she wryly muses “And then there was the unauthorised use of firearms. Having saved Calabretta’s life was one thing; having shot a loser in the crown jewels instead of the leg is quite another.”
So now she looks after victims but her job is not to play any part in solving the actual crimes, though as you quickly come to realise, sitting back and relaxing is not Chas’s style. The novel is written as a first person narrative, predominantly Chastity, but after each chapter you get other voices, generally in the form of internal monologue flashbacks, which help you to understand the other protagonists.
From the outset I liked Chastity. She’s a smoker and a drinker, but she is no renegade wolf. Rather she has a small circle of close friends, each of whom has an important role to play in the book and each of whom looks out for the other. An idiosyncratic bunch, each with their own damaged elements, they work together to form a cohesive unit and here you will find both male and female friendships which transcend boundaries.
I love Buchholz’s writing style. Throughout this book the language sparkles and seduces, drawing the reader in to the story. She has a wry wit and writes in short, fluid sentences overlaid with a descriptive text that makes you feel as if you are in the middle of the action. I’m pretty sure she shared Chas’s booze and cigarette hangover with me at least once.
Here the characters and relationships are paramount as is the colour in her Hamburg descriptions. From the start you want to know more and understand her friends and their backstories. So part of the enjoyment lies in the way Chastity Riley goes about questioning her taciturn victim who is lying in a hospital unwilling to talk to anyone.
How Chastity forges a relationship with this almost George Clooney look alike is both amusing and highly plausible, and leads her into the heart of this story which involves international organised crime and drug smuggling. Chastity is led straight into the highly dangerous world of Crystal Meth – and worse. Entirely convincing, this is the kind of crime that chills the blood and offers a sense of how Hamburg as a major port can be critical to an enterprise of size and scale.
Part of the success of this crime thriller lies in the beautiful, almost poetic writing which contrasts well with the deadly subject matter. Here language is so important and I must pay tribute to Rachel Ward’s translation which captures Buchholz’s intentions so well.
Blue Night is hard hitting Hamburg noir with a female protagonist you can’t help but like and respect. It is also a crime novel with a unique voice that delivers with style and panache. I want to read more of Chastity Reilly as soon as possible.
About Simone Buchholz
Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as the second place in the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.
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