First Monday Crime: River Clyde by Simone Buchholz, translated by Rachel Ward

Today I’m delighted to sre-hare my thoughts on River Clyde, book five in the Chastity Riley series by Simone Buchholz to celebrate the fact that the author is appearing on May’s first Monday crime panel on 9th May at 19:00 over on FMC’s Facebook page. Simone will be appearing with Lizzie Barber (Out Of Her Depth), Gytha Lodge (Little Sister) and Anna Mazzola (The Clockwork Girl), all moderated by equally talented William Ryan. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Owned Copy
Release Date: 17 March 2022
Publisher: Orenda Books

About the Book

Mired in grief after tragic recent events, state prosecutor Chastity Riley escapes to Scotland, lured to the birthplace of her great-great-grandfather by a mysterious letter suggesting she has inherited a house.

In Glasgow, she meets Tom, the ex-lover of Chastity’s great aunt, who holds the keys to her own family secrets – painful stories of unexpected cruelty and loss that she’s never dared to confront.

In Hamburg, Stepanovic and Calabretta investigate a major arson attack, while a group of property investors kicks off an explosion of violence that threatens everyone.

As events in these two countries collide, Chastity prepares to face the inevitable, battling the ghosts of her past and the lost souls that could be her future and, perhaps, finally finding redemption for them all.

Breathtakingly emotive, River Clyde is an electrifying, poignant and powerful story of damage and hope, and one woman’s fight for survival.

My Thoughts

Hotel Cartagena was just one of those books that really left a mark. On the characters and the readers, to be fair, so I was really intrigued to see how Simone Buchholz would follow it. The answer is with a book that combines all the hallmarks of a classic Chastity Riley story with a real notable change in tone and style, but one that perhaps endeared me to our unusual protagonist in a whole new way.

The final chapter of the book left us facing Chastity Riley in a very unusual situation, even by her standards, and certainly a world away from the familiar streets of Hamburg, seeking out answers to a question she doesn’t really yet know she needs to ask, on the rain soaked streets of Glasgow and beyond. River Clyde picks up just before the conclusion to HC, as Chastity, still grieving for the loss of a good friend, is faced with a very unexpected windfall, one that takes her deep into her familial roots within the West Coast of Scotland. Her swift departure leaves her colleagues in uncertain territory, especially Ivo Stepanovic who has been growing increasingly closer to Chastity seemingly against his better judgment. Meanwhile, in Hamburg, her friends are finding new and unexpected ways to deal with their own grief and tragedy, as well as trying to catch the people behind a serious and deadly case of arson in the city. It all makes for an eclectic and unexpected mix of stories and emotions, much as you’d expect from this series, but in a novel that focuses largely on the personal and much less so on the crime.

I really enjoyed seeing Chastity uprooted and navigating her heritage, travelling the unfamiliar streets of a new city and getting to grips with the various personalities she comes into contact with. We have her usual sardonic narrative, her cool and minimal conversation, that has come to typify the series, but also that sense of a search for something … more. There is a real blend of the here and now but also something a little mystical about the tale, scenes in which we are not sure if Chastity is lost in the depths of grief, a strange psychotic episode, or just experiencing visions which are ultimately to lead her to her future. There is something beautifully lyrical about those scenes, scenes in which. the ebb and flow of the River Clyde becomes a living breathing thing, seeking to orchestrate and manipulate the future of our heroine. It is almost surreal in portrayal, but ultimately very fitting for this series which has always felt quite quirky and alternative in its execution.

The scenes in back in Hamburg are almost equally surreal, people developing new and very complicated relationships that both seemed out of place and yet very apt for this series. This has always been a series in which the way in which the characters lives intersect and intertwine is often so complex that it is hard to keep track, but it’s fair to say that the author has elevated a particular quartet, or would that be quintet(?), to a whole new level of complication. I’m not quite sure how that will play out for them all, but it will certainly be intriguing to see.

As I said, the crime, the arson that takes place very early on in the book, is mostly secondary to the story, a reminder perhaps that the characters we are engaged with are actually officers of the law and the like, and that life, quite like crime, does go on. It does allow for the development of a new kind of kinship between Ivo and Calabretta, bonding over Fortnite, whilst lamenting the complexity of knowing Chastity. There are some key moments of revelation there, steeped in emotion and contemplation, that lead to a key decision and perhaps even a new beginning?

This is not your typical crime fiction novel. I’m not sure it is even entirely fitting of your traditional noir, although if you go by. the google definition of cynicism and moral ambiguity, there is plenty of that in those pages. Perfectly translated by Rachel Ward, and capturing the spirit and the wild heart of Scotland with the same passion and visual power as the author has always portrayed Hamburg, this is a real mix up of the old and the new. A tale of family, friendship, loss, grief and understanding. A literary novel that captures the mind, and perhaps the heart, in unexpected ways.

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. The critically acclaimed Beton Rouge, Mexico Street and Hotel Cartagena all followed in the Chastity Riley series, with River Clyde out in 2022. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

About the Translator

Rachel Ward is a freelance translator of literary and creative texts from German and French to English. Having always been an avid reader and enjoyed word games and puzzles, she discovered a flair for languages at school and went on to study modern languages at the University of East Anglia. She spent the third year working as a language assistant at two grammar schools in Saaebrücken, Germany. During her final year, she realised that she wanted to put these skills and passions to use professionally and applied for UEA’s MA in Literary Translation, which she completed in 2002. Her published translations include Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang and Red Rage by Brigitte Blobel, and she is a Member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.

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