Today I am taking another look back at the Chastity Riley series by Simon Buchholz, this time revisiting my review of book two, Beton Rouge. Got to be honest and say that I loved this book, especially Chastity’s new Police partner, Ivo. Before we see what I thought in full, here is what the book is all about:
About the Book
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.Available from: Amazon UK | Waterstones | Kobo | Googleplay | Apple Books
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.
I’ll be honest now. Blue Night, the first book in this series, took me quite by surprise when I first read it. Why? Because it was so unique, so detailed and so ingenious in the way it was structured that it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. It was, quite simply, stunning. Quite probably the first German book in translation that I’m aware of having read, I really did love the quirky nature of how the author pulled the story together.
With Beton Rouge, that style of story telling has changed again. This time we know most of the main players in the story, the rest we will meet on our journey, but you don’t get the same interplay between the stories or the same fractured timeline which meant you had to concentrate really hard on what you were reading in Blue Night. The result this time around? Well I simply flew through the book, eating up page after page and enjoying every second of it. This story is very much Chastity’s. Well … her’s and a few victims she comes across along the way. Told almost exclusively from her point of view you get a very different kind of story being told.
The story opens as Chastity comes across the scene of a hit and run accident. So far so dark. The descriptions of the scene clear while not gratuitous, but allowing the uninitiated reader a glimpse of Chastity’s astute and darkly humorous observations. As a Public Prosecutor, it may or may not be her case to manage but as she is at the scene, she tips a nod to the officers who are managing the aftermath. You will think from this that you have an inkling where the story is going but you’d be very much mistaken. Instead our heroine is called to the scene of an altogether different crime – one which is very difficult to describe. Ill advised prank or something far more sinister, a man bent double and locked in a cage outside of a major newspaper certainly isn’t something the Police come across every day. Well … it wasn’t.
I have to say I really loved this book. It is hard to say too much more about the story itself without giving away key plot points but I can say that accompanying the assigned Police Officer to investigate this most unusual crime certainly pushes Chastity out of her comfort zone. Nothing for her is quite right in this book, everything slightly out of kilter and when she is thrown together with Ivo Stepanovic, it makes for a most interesting pairing. I absolutely loved Ivo. Full on, forthright and completely charming he is every bit Chastity’s equal in this story, and the chemistry between them was perfectly played, just oozing from the page. Ill timed as it turns out and both of them are as flawed and quite probably damaged as each other, but Ivo was quite the character and a fun guy to get to know.
All of Chastity’s old gang of comrades are there (she doesn’t really do friends) but you can feel that we are seeing them right on the cusp of major changes and certain revelations throughout the story will surprise readers but also add to the tensions which are brewing in Chastity’s private life. Add in the bizarre investigation and things are set to get very complicated indeed.
The chapters are short, driving the narrative along at a fast pace, keeping me as a reader completely hooked. It really was a case of ‘one more chapter’ for me, quickly followed by another one, then another, until I found myself 30% through the book in what felt like the blink of an eye. It just compelled me onward. I didn’t want to step away. There isn’t a moment wasted – no unnecessary filler – and yet you never feel like you are cheated out of anything. You still get all of the tension, the suspense, the intrigue, and the clear sense of place, be it the humid city streets of Hamburg, or the more provincial (and the less than suitably named Franconian Tuscany) town of Biesendorf. And then there are those little spikes of dread or morbid curiosity that we get in the few short chapters told from the perpetrator’s point of view, as they consider just what they might inflict upon their latest victim.
I know I haven’t done this book justice in my review (nothing new there) but honestly, whether you have read book one or not, I would urge you to pick this book up. It is perfect to be read as a standalone as even though you won’t have met some of the characters in the book before like the more seasoned reader, the people you really need to know for this tale are all introduced here anyway. With the exception of Chastity. But believe me, Simone Buchholz has created such a brilliantly vibrant and believable character that it will take you a matter of pages to get the measure of her and develop a little bit of Chastity Riley book love like the rest of us.
Fast paced, full of delightfully diverse and lovable (and detestable) characters, all set against an intriguing and cunningly crafted story, Beton Rouge is an absolutely brilliant book. I loved it.
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 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.
Author Links: Twitter ~ Website
Books in the Chastity Riley Series: