The Acapulco by Simone Buchholz, trns by Rachel Ward

Today I am thrilled to share my thoughts on The Acapulco, the latest, and the original, Chastity Riley novel from Simone Buchholz. I’ve loved this series from the very first book Orenda released, and now I get to love it from the ‘start’ as this book takes us back to the very first novel in the series. My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for sending the advance proof and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invite. Here’s what the book is all about:

About the Book

A serial killer is on the loose in Hamburg, targeting dancers from The Acapulco, a club in the city’s red-light district, taking their scalps as gruesome trophies and replacing them with plastic wigs.

Chastity Riley is the state prosecutor responsible for crimes in the district, and she’s working alongside the police as they investigate. Can she get inside the mind of the killer?

Her strength is thinking like a criminal; her weaknesses are pubs, bars and destructive relationships, but as Chastity searches for love and a flamboyant killer – battling her demons and the dark, foggy Hamburg weather – she hits dead end after dead end.

As panic sets in and the death toll rises, it becomes increasingly clear that it may already be too late. For everyone…

My Thoughts

The one thing that you know you are going to get with a book by Simone Buchholz is variety. Every book has its own kind of vibe, its own tone, pace and style. Just when you think you understand the quirkiness of Chastity Riley’s life, a new book comes along that completely turns what you know on its head – always in a good way mind. The same can absolutely be said of The Acapulco, perhaps the most ‘traditional’ of all of the author’s books to date. Perhaps it is because this case – the murder of dancers from the eponymous Acapulco club – is/was the first outing for Chastity Riley. Not for English readers perhaps, but this was the very first book in the series and the first time anyone got to see the fabulous prosecutor, Chas, in operation.

As an introduction to characters and setting, if you are not familiar with the books, this is a really good place to start. It gives you a sense of how a good number of the people we are going to meet and grow to love over the course of the series fit together. A good grounding into their character and, for me, it shows the depth of the connection between Chas and Chief Inspector Faller in a way I perhaps hadn’t really twigged before. They are more than just friends and it is a partnering which adds to the intensity of what will come to pass in this book. I love Chas as a character, love her intensity and her passion, both for her friends and for the case in hand. Told in first person from her point of view, you really get to understand her as a character, get to feel the rhythm of her life. Simone Buchholz has done a brilliant job of allowing readers to get under her skin and giving her a really unique voice that I always enjoy returning to.

This is a dark case. Murder and mutilation is grotesque enough, but with each new victim the sense of the macabre and the underlying unease grows. There is something deeply personal about the way in which each victim is left, a kind of grim tableau which the Detectives need to understand if they are to identify their suspect. The whole setting is atmospheric, the weather playing a key part in adding to the melancholy which feeds throughout the book. There are brief moments in which the darkness lifts and the lightness shines through, largely when Chas is engaged with her friends, away from the heinous nature of the case. They are scarce, but necessary and very effective. There is an edginess to the story that doesn’t allow anyone to fully relax, and threatening forces in play who are seemingly determined to keep the killer’s identity a secret, all adding to the tension and serving to pull me deeper into the story. It’s a complex and multi-layered case where the obvious solution is not necessarily the correct one. I had moments where I has guessed some of the vital reveals, but still remained blind to the eventual truth.

It’s fair to say that Chas has a very complicated personal life and throughout the course of this book we come to understand more about her and her family life than we have seen before. Add in a pretty disastrous blind date, a romantic tryst with her neighbour and a best friend in meltdown and its amazing that Chas has the mental capacity for seeing this case through. I loved the way in which Simon Buchholz has explored Chas’s emotional reaction to the murders, showing that in spite of all the darkness she may see through work, and her often tough exterior, she is still a sensitive soul, with empathy for all victims, no matter who they are.

If this is your first Chastity Riley book, it’s a great place to start. If you’re a veteran of the series then I think you will love this book too, another reinvention of an enduring favourite. Dark, atmospheric, and complex, with often surprisingly emotional, it’s another classy piece of fiction from an author who never disappoints.

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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