A(nother) Year of Orenda – Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz trns by Rachel Ward

Today I am delighted to share my thoughts on Hotel Cartagena, the latest book in the Chastity Riley series by Simone Buchholz. I really love these novels, the quirkiness of the characters and that fact that each book sees the author almost reinventing the series. This one was no different. My thanks to publisher Orenda Books who provided an advance copy for review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to join this blog tour. Here’s what the book is all about;

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Released on:
E-book – 4 January 2021
Paperback – 4 March 2021
Publisher: Orenda Books

About the Book

Chastity Riley and her friends are held hostage in a hotel bar by twelve armed men set on revenge, in a searing, breathtakingly original new thriller from the ‘Queen of Krimi’.

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, relevant thriller that will leave you breathless.

My Thoughts

Readers of the Chastity Riley series will be used to our favourite public Prosecutor being called to the scene of various strange and often deadly crime scenes. This time around she doesn’t have to travel very far at all as the crime scene comes to her. Celebrating Faller’s birthday, Chastity and her friends and colleagues find themselves caught in the middle of a very tense hostage situation as the hotel bar they are drinking in is sieged. The reasons are not immediately clear, but the target, and the motives, soon become apparent, but the siege, and the jeopardy the group find themselves in, really is only part of this complex, twisting and emotion driven story. It’s classic Chastity Riley territory and yet also … not.

This is only a short book and so it is hard to write a long review (you can breathe a sigh of relief now if you like). It is divided into essentially two parts, carefully interwoven – the before and the now. The before scenes, although seemingly incongruous, come to inform the central action in a mix of surprising and ultimately emotional ways. We are slowly told a story, drip fed in scenes which fall between the present day action, the author cleverly concealing just enough to keep us guessing, but no so much that we cannot see the ultimate direction the tale is heading. we just don’t initially know why.

As for the now – well aside from the tension of the hostage situation, which is played pitch perfectly, the aggressors doing just enough to maintain their control but never really antagonising the reader so that we don’t care about the why – we are faced with what is really a bit of a crossroads in Chastity’s own life. She is trapped, physically and emotionally and with more than just the hostage takers giving her and her friends cause for concern. Her personal circumstances give her cause for reflection, something that is in keeping with her style throughout the series, but as she considers her future , caught between relationships past and present, I could feel a kind of shift in her character and i am intrigued to see how that plays out.

The main part of the story, the present day hostage situation, playout in a matter of hours, something reflected in the urgency of the pacing and the way in which I devoured the book in a matter of hours too. I loved the conflicts that the author created, both physically and mentally, and not just for Chastity. Ivo Stepanovic is having his own mental battle, caught on the outside of the crisis and, in his mind at least, of Chastity’s life, an uncomfortable position on both counts. I love Ivo as a character, but he is a troubled soul and his melancholy starts to win out in this book and it is intriguing to see how this steers his action, or reaction, to the hostage situation.

Multi layered, with a carefully spun narrative, this was much more about the personal aspects of the crime and of the characters than it was a police investigation into a specific crime. But it is a stunning story that completely drew me in and kept me hooked until the very last page. If you love the series, and the abstract styling of Simone Buchholz, I think you will love this. There is much to remind me of the other books and yet that subtle shift in tone makes it feel both familiar and unique and I loved it. Great translation as always by Rachel Ward. I’m hoping we’ve still plenty more of Chastity to come as these books leave me smiling every single time.

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.

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5 thoughts on “A(nother) Year of Orenda – Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz trns by Rachel Ward

  1. Jen, you’re spot on, as ever. I hadn’t clocked Chastity’s ‘shift’ and indeed I still think that part of it is that her wooziness symbolises the moral ambiguity, but the shift is definitely there as we see in the postscript (which doesn’t make sense otherwise). I’ve got plenty of stuff in the TBR but I’m going to go back to Blue Night which, weirdly, I have never got round to.

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    1. Yes, most definitely. It’s like she has a moment of clarity despite the brain fog. Loved your review. Be intrigued to see your thoughts on Blue Night having read the others. It’s different in style again but I think if I read-read it now, it would be a totally different experience

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