Hi and welcome to the last #Orentober #ThrowbackThursday, which is also a #TranslationThursday! As I’m running out of #Orentober days, I’ve decided to kill two birds with one stone, or more like three birds, since technically this also qualifies as a Series in the Spotlights 😁
The Chas Riley series consists of two books so far, with a third one coming out next year (eBook in January, paperback in March). The most important things to know are:
- The protagonist is prosecutor 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!
And this is the blurb for Mexico Street, coming soon from Orenda Books:
Hamburg state prosecutor Chastity Riley investigates a series of arson attacks on cars across the city, which leads her to a startling and life-threatening discovery involving criminal gangs and a very illicit love story…
Night after night, cars are set alight across the German city of Hamburg, with no obvious pattern, no explanation and no suspect.
Until, one night, on Mexico Street, a ghetto of high-rise blocks in the north of the city, a Fiat is torched. Only this car isn’t empty. The body of Nouri Saroukhan – prodigal son of the Bremen clan – is soon discovered, and the case becomes a homicide.
Public prosecutor Chastity Riley is handed the investigation, which takes her deep into a criminal underground that snakes beneath the whole of Germany. And as details of Nouri’s background, including an illicit relationship with the mysterious Aliza, emerge, it becomes clear that these are not random attacks, and there are more on the cards…
Thanks for joining me today, and if you’d like to see Simone in action, be sure to click on her smiley face below!