Novel set in Victorian Birmingham
Thriller set in Hamburg and Bavaria
15th February 2019
Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz, thriller set in Hamburg and Bavaria (translated by Rachel Ward).
Beton Rouge is the second outing in Hamburg by ex police and now public prosecutor, Chastity Riley. The first, Blue Night, was favourably reviewed by TripFiction in early 2018. Beton Rouge is every bit as good a read…
This time Chastity has a new partner, Ivo Stepanovic, a member of the ‘specialist’ police squad. He is used to giving orders, rather than being told what to do. A tortured, but living, body is found in a cage outside a major publishing house in Hamburg. The victim is the HR Director of the firm. The same thing happens a couple of days later – this time the victim is the Publishing Director for the magazine division. Neither of the men are popular in the company, but their treatment does seem a bit extreme for it to be work related. Riley and Stepanovic try to find out what links the men and what the motive may be. They discover that the two of them shared a room together at a boarding school in Bavaria, and that a third inhabitant of the same room is no less than Sebastian Schmidt, the current Managing Director of the publishing house. Sebastian is currently being investigated by another branch of Hamburg law enforcement for allegedly driving his vehicle in a hit and run accident that left a young woman dead. This is a charge he vehemently denies. He is released and put into police protection by Riley and Stepanovic in case it is not just coincidence that the first two victims were attacked and tortured in the way they were.
Riley and Stepanovic head to Bavaria to see what they can find out about the school days, but are met by an almost total wall of silence. Only one person is prepared to help them, but they manage to establish that the school was a strange and violent place. The two return to Hamburg and the book moves to a very exciting and bloody conclusion.
Beton Rouge is a really good thriller in its own right, but it is a great deal more. Simone Buchholz lives in St Pauli in the heart of Hamburg, and she clearly knows the city well. And not just the normal sights seen by tourists and those being disgorged by the cruise ships. Riley and Stepanovic spend much time in some pretty unsavoury drinking haunts along with the underbelly of Hamburg life. The areas are well described and come to life in front of you. As with any big city, and Hamburg is no exception, you have to scratch the surface to see what lies below. The location, plus the sparring and the sometimes tetchy relationship between Riley and Stepanovic – and, of course, the story line – gives a very strong and enjoyable read.
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