Mexico Street by Simone Buchholz (tr by Rachel Ward) #BokReview #BlogTour

Hamburg state prosecutor Chastity Riley investigates a series of arson attacks on cars across the city, which leads her to a startling and life-threatening discovery involving criminal gangs and a very illicit love story…

 Night after night, cars are set alight across the German city of Hamburg, with no obvious pattern, no explanation and no suspect.

Until, one night, on Mexico Street, a ghetto of high-rise blocks in the north of the city, a Fiat is torched. Only this car isn’t empty. The body of Nouri Saroukhan – prodigal son of the Bremen clan – is soon discovered, and the case becomes a homicide.

Public prosecutor Chastity Riley is handed the investigation, which takes her deep into a criminal underground that snakes beneath the whole of Germany. And as details of Nouri’s background, including an illicit relationship with the mysterious Aliza, emerge, it becomes clear that these are not random attacks, and there are more on the cards…

I'm thrilled to be sharing my review of Mexico Street today. Huge thanks to Simone Buchholz, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

There's a scene towards the end of Mexico Street where Chastity Riley and Ivo Stepanovic visit a bar and in a few lines, Riley's narration perfectly describes not only the place but also this damaged yet irresistible protagonist,
'I like the joint, the consistent red light, the velvet, the deep sofas, the shining glasses and eyes, the beating hearts, the music like a shot in the head. Once, when I still had a smooth face, I came here from time to time to work on buggering it up.'
This is the third novel in the Chastity Riley series to be published in the UK and as ever it's a wryly smart, atmospheric noir thriller. Like its superb predecessors, Blue Night and Beton Rouge, it can easily be enjoyed as a standalone although I suspect that many who start here will be tempted to read the first two immediately afterwards.
In Chas Riley, Simone Buchholz has created a character who deserves to become a classic. Hard-drinking, chain smoking and with her own set of rules, she is the epitome of the hardboiled anti-hero proving that it's not just the men who get to be pessimistic cynics with a present as troubled as their past. First introduced in Beton Rouge, Stepanovic makes a welcome return and rather than being Riley's counterpoint, he is her mirror image and seems as set on as self-destructive a path as she is. As a partnership, it could easily be a disaster and yet the pair have developed a sort of telepathy with one another, with the wise-cracking, sharp dialogue between them crackling with a sexual tension that is almost at boiling point.
As a public prosecutor, Chas is required to investigate the murder of Nouri Saroukhan who is discovered inside a burnt-out car. He is the son of a known crime family from Bremen so questions are immediately raised as to whether his death means the clan is intending to expand into Hamburg. When they visit Bremen to find out more, they uncover a shady, convoluted and fiercely insular system where even the slightest internal quarrel can spill over into bloody violence. As with many police forces trying to manage gang and clan warfare in their cities, the Bremen force don't have the resources to deal with their criminal activities. The decades of job and money cutting isn't unique to Germany, of course and the sense of frustration at the impotence of policing under these constraints are echoed around the world. Indeed, during the course of the novel the burning of cars which is first seen in Hamburg spreads worldwide, perhaps as a grim, hopeless protest against the nihilism of 21st century capitalism.
Nouri is - or rather, was - part of the Mhallami and the explanation of their history and how they have ended up in Germany explores the painful, difficult issues that arise when those forced to flee their birthplaces need to do what they can to survive. The Mhallami are not a powerful mafia clan; their system dates back to their tribal warrior origins where they perceive everything outside their structure as the enemy. Trying to make sense of, and investigate such complicated circumstances requires the lightest of touches; this is a touchpaper that's waiting to be lit but Chas is determined to discover who is responsible for the death of Nouri Saroukhan.
Most of the book is narrated from Riley's perspective and is as chaotic and fragmented as her meandering trains of thought. Mexico Street deals with bleak themes and the almost fevered, confused prose reflects not just her torment but also the sad reality of a damaged society where everyone has to exist with their own problems alongside those of others. However, despite being a darkly realistic novel, the black humour and poetic writing is actually rather beautiful and credit must be given here to Rachel Ward for a translation which captures the vibrant spirit of Simone Buchholz's original words.
There are also chapters which give readers a glimpse into the lives of Nouri and Aliza, a story which reads almost as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, although this is less a romantic tragedy and more an angry, passionate diatribe against the patriarchal brutality which looms over the book. By the conclusion there have been some revelations which will result in a degree of justice being served but the sombre reality of a society where those at the bottom  - especially the women - will continue to suffer, remains largely intact.
Mexico City is an outstanding novel which encapsulates all that noir should be; always entertaining, always compelling and yet still a starkly realistic, powerful and thought-provoking exposé of injustice and violence. Absolutely brilliant!

Mexico Street is published by Orenda Books and in these difficult times, Karen Sullivan has announced an initiative to help book buyers and independent book stores by offering to post out any Orenda titles directly to customers that the shops don't have in stock, so do try to purchase from one of our wonderful independent shops if you can. Alternatively buy from Hive who are currently doubling the commission they give to independent bookstores. Mexico Street can also be purchased directly from Orenda's ebook store  or ordered from any of the big name book vendors.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

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, and second place in the German Crime Fiction Prize, for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. The next in the Chastity Riley series, Beton Rouge, won the Radio Bremen Crime Fiction Award and Best Economic Crime Novel 2017. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.
Twitter  Website

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.
Twitter  Blog  Website


  1. Thanks so much Karen. Twitter is not showing any of my shares or RTs at the moment, so am cutting back until they release me from Jail, or realise that I am not a Spam account. We really appreciate your support xx


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