Translated by Rachel Ward
I joined Buchholz’s Chastity Riley series at #4 Hotel Cartagena, which was an amazing introduction to the fiesty, smoking, hard-drinking Hamburg State Prosecutor – she was caught in a hotel penthouse bar siege, with blood poisoning gradually affecting her which made for a truly different first person narrative. I followed her to Glasgow in #5 River Clyde, where she went to explore her family’s past. This novel left her at a crossroads in her life, without giving away which way she’d ultimately go.
However, in her 6th Chastity Riley novel to be translated into English, Buchholz hasn’t yet decided on Chastity’s future. Instead, she’s called it Chastity ‘Reloaded’ and is taking us back to earlier in her career – making this effectively #0 in the series. Actually, River Clyde was the tenth in the series, as it often happens that series translations are not done in order of publication in the original language, and Buchholz has now reworked this from her 2009 original.
Not that Chastity is a rookie as a prosecutor in The Acapulco, far from it. Although it would be perfectly possible to start reading the series here, it was more fun perhaps, knowing her from the previous later episodes as Buchholz throws us into her life on page one, with the discovery of a body of a woman at the port – scalped underneath a wig! Chastity is first on the scene, waiting for Chief Inspector Faller to arrive. They agree they need to speak to the women on the street and in the clubs of the Reeperbahn to find out who she is.
We follow Chastity to her favourite cafe, run by her friend Carla, an inveterate matchmaker who has found her a potential date…
‘Yeah, he’s GREAT,’ she says. ‘He’s a man in a suit, but the good type, you know Lovely grey temples, does something in the theatre. And he’s single.’
‘There’s got to be something wrong with someone who lives alone at that age,’ I say.
‘You live alone,’ she says.
‘My point exactly,’ I say. ‘there’s tons wrong with me.’
But Chastity agrees to meet him at the cafe. You can sense right from the start that there will be something about the outwardly charming Claudius Zandvoort that Chastity’s pings Chastity’s radar.
Another key character in this Chastity story is her younger neighbour Klatsche, a man with a somewhat murky past, now earning a good living as a locksmith. He and Chastity look after each other in a way, but keep it casual. However, there is no lock that he can’t get past, and Klatsche’s contacts are the best – he’s the ideal companion to take when out searching for the dead girl’s identity. Later, once they’ve put a name to her and found where she worked, another body turns up – another girl from the same club, scalped again. The tension rises, the pressure to find the killer with this perverted m.o. is on.
I love Chastity. She’s a no holds barred, straight-talking woman, who generally knows what she wants and takes it when she can, washed down with wine and cigs. Abandoned by her American mother, and having lost her beloved German father too soon, she is an orphan, but one with very close friends who look after her.
Carla forced me to eat a ham toastie. Sometimes, I wish she’d just have a baby so I’d be free from her solicitude.
She may drink too much, but she is good at her job, the continental policing systems having prosecutors who work very closely with the police at all stages of an investigation, not just once there’s enough evidence to bring it to court as in ours. Some of her colleagues who’ve appeared in later volumes appear here: notably Faller, whose retirement party she was at in Hotel Cartagena, and Calabretta, who comes from Italian stock and will move up the squad in years to come.
Rachel Ward has translated all the volumes in this series for Orenda Books, and is to be congratulated bringing Chastity to life in English for us, with all her earthiness, moments of introspection and humour in tact. I particularly love all the chapter headings which go from ‘I can’t be doing with fear’ to ‘Showtime’. Buchholz keeps her chapters short and the action always moving as Chastity edges her way towards the climax, which is telegraphed a way before the end, but it’s a tense read getting there.
I’m very much looking forward to reading the rest of Chastity’s earlier adventures in crime, she is a one-of-a-kind protagonist!
Source: Review copy – thank you! Orenda paperback original, 272 pages.
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