‘The hair stands up on the back of my neck and I get an age-old feeling in my belly. Like there’s a fight ahead. Like something’s really about to go off….’
Today I have the pleasure of joining publisher Orenda Books on tour with Blue Night, a novel by German writer Simone Buchholz.
Blue Night is the first book in the Chastity Riley series and is a number one bestseller in Germany. Excellently translated by Rachel Ward, I knew that this was going to be a very unusual read for me.
Read on for my thoughts…
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,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…
With a very unique style of writing, containing sharp and short sentences, Blue Night tells us the story of Chastity Riley. At less than 200 pages, it is a compact tale with a very tough edge.
After a recent demotion, Chastity is itching to get her hands into something again. Currently working in witness protection, Chastity is bored. Her one saving grace are her friends. A mix of various characters, Chastity’s friends inhabit all parts of life. Restaurant owners Rocco and Carla, owner of the Blue Night bar, and her lover, Klatsche, and fellow law enforcers Faller and Calabretta. These are all family to Chastity and their friendship is very important to her.
Chastity’s story is never fully fleshed out, with just tantalizing snippets occasionally revealed to the reader. She is someone who has suffered great pain and her life has become a endless circle of caffeine, cigarettes and copious levels of alcohol. There is an underlying anger in Chastity and this, combined with her lifestyle and her shadowy history, makes her quite an enigmatic individual.
Blue Night takes the reader into the darkness of the drugs culture in Hamburg and beyond. With a tip-off from a man she currently has under police security in the local hospital, Chastity soon finds herself involved in a case that opens her eyes to the underbelly of the drug world. Controlled locally by the Albanian Mafia, these people are dangerous. They have created a dual identity, where their wealth has brought them, and bought them, entry into the highest echelons of society. These are people you do not want to mess with. Chastity soon becomes aware that one of her friends is going rogue and is going to try to collapse the empire of these Albanians as a lone vigilante.
With the assistance of a source in Leipzig, Chastity is soon exposed to the hidden underground lives of the drug user.
‘They look terrible; they really are living corpses…No idea how old they are. Their faces are sunken. There are green ulcers on their hands, on their arms and on their necks….I can’t move and I can’t speak. I want; to scream. To cry. This is just wrong’
What she sees frightens her. It drives her determination to help put a stop to this squalid existence for these zombie-like creatures, these human beings now reduced to the depths of depravity, all for one man’s wealth and power.
Chastity Riley’s own life runs in parallel with this case and we get a deeper look into her relationship with her friends. She has a very close bond with all these people, with Simone Buchholz painting quite a vivid picture of the closeness of their friendship.
‘Rocco’s cooked for everyone….Rocco and Carla call it mixing the glue. Holding the family together. We do this every week. And every few weeks something is different. A different person needs a bit more glue than the rest’
Chastity Riley has been described by some as a modern day Philip Marlowe. She is tough. She is hard. She is mentally strong. But yet she has a very vulnerable side that is ‘almost hidden’ from the reader. The chapters are short and are infused with one-liners and monologues, making it a very fast book to read.
Blue Night is 100% German. Set in Germany and originally written in German, it introduces the reader to a style that many may not have been exposed to before.
Blue Night is noir. It is, I imagine, what would have been termed hard-boiled crime fiction, a style synonymous with 1920’s America, but with a very modern and German twist.
Who really is Chastity Riley? What made her who she is? I expect Simone Buchholz will reveal a few further secrets as the series continues….
Purchase Link ~ Blue Night
About the Author:
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 for 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.