Review Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz

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, stunning thriller that will leave you breathless.


Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz is the latest in the Chasity Riley series, caught up in a hostage situation events take a perilous turn when she develops sepsis.

Each writer has a distinctive style of writing, around which they create stories with distinct vibes. Simone Buchholz peppers her story with bold strong sentences, that suite the story that is centred around the streetwise and  flawed Chastity Riley.  Very cleverly she creates layers of tension and mounting pressure within the reader by reducing the narrative to short snappy sentences, almost poetic looking text, that creates a breathless sense of urgency and the narrative fizzles as a result.

Chasity is the perfect heroine for this tale, not your typical heroine, hers a deeply troubled life, with a history of failed relationships, which makes her feel unconventional and rebellious.  You can believe that she would land herself in this situation because trouble seems to follow her around and she is able to watch events as they swirl around her, her illness makes her feel detached from the ebb and flow of events. This adds depth to the story, it becomes a more assemble piece, which her colleagues doing all they can to bring a dangerous situation to an end and bring her to safety.  As a reader I spent more time worrying about her than anyone else, because she is such a central character and anything happening to her would be a huge emotional blow and the writer plays on that, by ramping up the tension and teasing the reader, will she survive? Obviously you will have to read the book to find out? I felt on edge at all times, wondering, worrying and it felt that a real connection was made with the story, because of the writing made me believe that all the people in the room and those outside and everything to play for.

Many novelists would have chosen to concentrate on the claustrophobic atmosphere Chasity finds herself in, but this novel works so well because the writer gives us a background that leads to the terrifying events she finds herself in. The story gains depth and as we drift in and out of the present, our anxiety grows, as well realise all that we as readers stand to lose.  So many have so much to gain and so little to lose, that you can never turn away from the growing threat of violence. My chest tightened when I fully comprehended that Simone Buchholz was a writer that delighted in putting her character in this situation that toyed with the stress levels of her readers, because in doing that she delivers a novel that you feel and absorb the real peril a much loved character is in.

You can purchase this novel from the publisher’s ebookstore, Amazon and Waterstones.

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.

About the translator

Rachel Ward translates 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 Saarbrücken, 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 the Nea Fox series of crime novels by Amelia Ellis, and books for young people such as Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang and Red Rage by Brigitte Blobel.

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