Hello lovelies! Today, I have not one, but two reviews for you, a dual review if you like. Why? Because I felt like it! And also because I read them back-to-back. Should you do the same? Well, obviously, you don’t have to do anything, you don’t even have to read Blue Night before you hit Beton Rouge if you don’t want to: they are standalone books, and although the same supporting characters return, you’ll be able to understand their roles in Beton Rouge without having read Blue Night. Having said this, if you’re new to the Chastity Riley series like I was, just go ahead and read Blue Night first, there are both quite short, so what’s stopping you. (Also: if you need some quick reads to reach your Goodreads challenge… Just saying.)
First of all: a huge thank you to the wonderful Karen Sullivan from Orenda Booksfor providing me with an emergency e-copy of Blue Night and a proof of Beton Rouge!
A word about the author: Simone Buchholz not only writes about Hamburg, she also lives there. 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 was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as the second Place of the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. Follow Simone on Twitter @ohneKlippoand visit her website: simonebuchholz.com.
Special shout-out the translator of both novels, because Simone can write whatever she wants, but without Rachel Ward I wouldn’t understand a thing! Rachel translates from German and French to English. Follow her on Twitter @FwdTranslations, check out her blog adiscounttickettoeverywhere.wordpress.com or visit her website www.forwardtranslations.co.uk.
All right, so, what do these books have in common?
- Protagonist Chastity Riley, a kick-ass, funny, somewhat self-deprecating woman and very unapologetically herself, I absolutely adore her!
- Simone’s very specific writing style. To be honest, it took me a moment to get used to it when I first started reading Blue Night, but I ended up loving it. It’s this weird combo of succinct and poetical, but somehow it works. While I was reading Beton Rouge I kept sticking little sticky notes to the pages to mark passages I wanted to share with you. (Yes, I am one of those uptight people who’d rather die than dog-ear pages in a book #sorrynotsorry)
- They are fast-paced and the short chapters propel you forward. You know the old “just one more chapter”? Yeah… Before you know it, you’re out of chapters and sitting there like an idiot holding the book, murmuring in a daze: wait… what, I was so not ready for this to end!
- Which brings me to the only bone I have to pick: these books are too short and I need more Chas! I would have liked a little more elaboration, explanation at the end of both novels, although both finales, I must admit, are completely in line with Simone’s style… Still, they’re so short and I need more Chaaaas (she wrote while throwing a teeny tiny tantrum).
Now let’s take a closer look at Blue Night, shall we?
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…
This story alternates between the present and the past. The present events are easy to follow, but I had some trouble with the past narrative. Simone takes us back to certain points in time and shows us what the various characters were doing at those times. I found myself wanting to memorise the names (which was more difficult than it sounds because they are all foreign names) and what everyone was doing and it did my head in (mind you, that probably says more about me than about the book). So I made the conscious decision to let it go and just let Chas take me for a ride. And oh boy, did she! We had a beer (I don’t actually drink beer but whatever), we had a smoke (I don’t actually smoke but whatever), we raced through the red-light district, through bars and nightclubs, past drug addicts and drug dealers we went, until I looked up from the page I was reading and realised I had been so completely and utterly immersed in the story that I had no idea what was going in my actual life!
If you want to get a feel for Chas, this is a quote that reflects her personality quite well:
‘The gloss comes off even true love eventually.’ I drain my bottle. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never had a true love. So there’s no gloss to come off. Everything’s rusty from the start with me.
And on this happy note, let’s move on to Beton Rouge!
On a warm September morning, an unconscious man is found in a cage at the entrance to the offices of one of the biggest German newspapers. Closer inspection shows he is a manager of the company, and he’s been tortured. Three days later, another manager appears in similar circumstances.
Chastity Riley and her new colleague Ivo Stepanovic are tasked with uncovering the truth behind the attacks, an investigation that goes far beyond the revenge they first suspect … to the dubious past shared by both victims. Travelling to the south of Germany, they step into the hothouse world of boarding schools, where secrets are currency, and monsters are bred … monsters who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.
For Beton Rouge, I thought I’d do something different and review it by means of quotes, since I’d marked so many glorious passages with sticky notes. Well, slap my lederhosen (yes, that, is in fact, a direct quote too), this is going to be so much fun!
The story starts with a hit-and-run: So, thinks God, looking industrious, that’s that. He picks up his well-chewed pencil, crosses the cyclist off, and wonders whose life he could play football with next.
The situation with Chas and her on-again-off-again boyfriend Klatsche gets a bit tense at times: ‘Thanks,’ I say, and the lie falls out of my mouth, squelching unpleasantly as it burst on the floor.
Investigating crimes where men (albeit unpleasant ones) are abducted and put in cages can be quite trying: I try to throw a smile his way, but it doesn’t quite make it. It crashes against the glass façade behind the cage and slips to the floor with an unpleasant squeal. I don’t think anyone’ll be along to pick it up today.
But through it all, Chas kicks ass: when her male friend and colleague Calabretta looks at lead investigator Stepanovic in a way Chas knows well, she thinks: it’s a junk-measuring way, which, obviously, I dislike because I’ve got the biggest balls of anyone here.See? That’s my girl!
In summary, and in case you hadn’t noticed: I loved this book, I ached to continue reading when pesky things like work got in the way and I highly recommend it!
Beton Rouge is out in eBook on 24 December (think of what a perfect Christmas gift that would make!) and in paperback in February 2019.