I have missed Orenda Books during my enforced sabbatical from reading and reviewing. The consistent quality of the authors is a tribute to the talent and commitment of the publisher’s driving force, Karen Sullivan. Her ability to pick a book is uncanny and most excitingly of all she has introduced me to writers I would never have found on my own. This is certainly true of German author Simone Buchholz whose novel Beton Rouge arrived last week and immediately caught my attention with its striking cover.
Short, sharp chapters rattle by in this crime novel featuring Public Prosecutor Chastity Riley. This is the second novel in the series to be translated into English, but although I came to this one without having read Blue Night, I immediately took to the character despite my lack of back story. Written in the first person the novel puts you inside Chas’s head and despite the darkness that sometimes lurks there it’s an appealing place to be. She’s intelligent, quick and engaging, whilst also being sardonic, biting and a little neurotic. I liked her a lot.
At 186 pages it’s a quick read that could be taken in one sitting, but it shouldn’t be skimmed as that could miss the opportunity for relationship. The book’s strength is that you get to inhabit Riley, her thoughts and her take on the people and events that surround her. It’s that intimacy that keeps you turning the pages and reading just one more chapter, the sense of knowing whilst wanting to learn more.
Most of the people that you meet in life are projections of something that they hope to be or think you might like to see. It’s refreshing to dwell within the blurred lines and vulnerability of another, albeit fictional, person’s reality. Very little actually resolves into a nice, neat finish either in the lives of the characters or in the case being investigated. We observe the detail of events and we participate through the thoughts of the lead protagonist, not to judge but simply to share the experience.
I didn’t need to have read Blue Night, the earlier release, to enjoy Beton Rouge but I will definitely be reaching for it now.
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 elite world of boarding schools, where secrets are currency, and monsters are bred … monsters who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.
A smart, dark, probing thriller, full of all the hard-boiled poetry and acerbic wit of the very best noir, Beton Rouge is both a classic whodunit and a scintillating expose of society, by one of the most exciting names in crime fiction.
Simone Buchholz is an award winning crime writer who lives in Sankt Pauli, Hamburg. I found this interview with her from the blog tour for Blue Night which gives a nice introduction to the author and her work.
Beton Rouge is published in paperback on 21 February 2019, thank you to Orenda Books for my review copy.