Blog Tour Review: Hotel Cartagena – Simone Buchholz

Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz, author of the Chastity Riley series of books

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

About The Book

Twenty floors above the shimmering lights of the Hamburg docks, Public Prosecutor Chastity Riley is celebrating a birthday with friends in a hotel bar when twelve heavily armed men pull out guns, and take everyone hostage. Among the hostages is Konrad Hoogsmart, the hotel owner, who is being targeted by a young man whose life – and family – have been destroyed by Hoogsmart’s actions.

With the police looking on from outside – their colleagues’ lives at stake – and Chastity on the inside, increasingly ill from an unexpected case of sepsis, the stage is set for a dramatic confrontation … and a devastating outcome for the team … all live streamed in a terrifying bid for revenge.

Crackling with energy and populated by a cast of unforgettable characters, Hotel Cartagena is a searing, stunning thriller that will leave you breathless.

My Review

My last two reads have been sweeping historical fiction novels which have taken me to both occupied France and 1950s Ireland, and although I enjoyed them, I really needed to read something of a pallet cleanser next. I wanted to read something sharp and zingy, something that would fizz through my head and hold my attention, and luckily for, me I had Hotel Cartagena on my To Read pile, because the Chastity Riley series of books are nothing if not zingy.

Public Prosecutor Chastity is at a birthday party with friends and colleagues at the rooftop bar of a swanky hotel in Hamburg. Chastity would usually rather be seen dead than go to a bar like this, where your feet don’t stick to the floor and there is more than offer than just beer, but she will do, for the birthday boy, Faller, even it means awkward exchanges of looks with the men she has complicated histories with. But things do seem to be going OK. The awkwardness isn’t quite as bad as anticipated and the vodka is strong and Chastity is just starting to think that the party may be OK, that is until twelve gun wielding men appear in the bar and take everybody hostage, including the owner of the hotel.

This is a short book which comes in at just under 200 pages long but it packs a lot in. Taking us back in time to the 80s, to Columbia and to the inner workings of a drugs cartel the details come thick and fast. We’re put right in the action of the history which has led to this moment on a rooftop bar, immersing us in the omnipresent threat of life in a drugs cartel and showing us how easy it is to knock down a house cards. The subject of the flashbacks is Henning, a disaffected young German man who moves to Columbia, finding himself a job and a wife and building a lovely life for himself, but his dabbling with a drug cartel boss may ultimately lead to his downfall. But what does he have to do with the hostage situation currently unfolding high above the streets of Hamburg below?

Short, sharp chapters flit back and forth between present and past, with the tension being ramped up in both timelines. Buchholz has such a unique way of writing, it is poetic yet spiky (a bit like Chastity), and it really draws you in. As usual there is darkness at the heart of the book and some peril, this time not only in the hostage situation but with Chastity who is very unwell. Usually Chastity takes centre stage, but in this book she is an observer of the action, and we see the events through her eyes. As she veers from poorly to dangerously sick, her thoughts become muddled and her confused stream of consciousness adds an extra layer of complexity to the plot.

I’ve written before about what a huge fan I am of this series of books, and Hotel Cartagena does not disappoint. This is a book about redemption and punishment and it pushes us to question the fine line between good and bad. It is, as ever, beautifully and distinctively written with moments that seem to knock you off kilter. I also have to mention Rachel Ward, whose translation lets this writing leap off the page. Another slice of German Noir, Hotel Cartagena features extreme darkness and depravity one moment and glimpses of humour the next, and deep at it’s heart, there is a complicated and brave woman.

About The Author

Simone Buchholz

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 runner-up 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.

Where You Can Buy It

My thanks to Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of the book and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for an invitation to join the Blog Tour.

Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz is out now in both ebook and paperback.

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