Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz (tr. by Rachel Ward) #BookReview #BlogTour


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, relevant thriller that will leave you breathless.

I am so thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Hotel Cartagena 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.

Public prosecutor Chastity Riley is attending a party that's fizzing with awkward energy; she is surrounded by lovers, past and present but she isn't the only person who has a complicated history within this dysfunctional group of partygoers. They've come together to celebrate Faller's 60th birthday but although their convoluted, damaged relationships establish a stifling tension between them, it doesn't belie the fact that somehow their defective friendships have endured whatever has gone before. However, the already interesting evening becomes even more unsettled when armed men burst into the hotel and take everyone hostage.
Hotel Cartagena can be read as a standalone although I would recommend reading the previous novels if possible. It is the ninth book in Simone Buchholz's Chastity Riley series but only fourth to have been published into English which means that we are constantly learning more about her past. This time, however, Chas' role becomes less central to the storyline which means we get to know more about the other characters, particularly Ivo Stepanovic whose raw, desperate frustration at being outside the hotel becomes almost palpable. 
The motivation behind the siege is explained through a series of flashbacks which takes the action out of Hamburg and to the Cartagena of the book's title. As a disaffected young man, Henning's ensnarement within the criminal underworld seems almost inevitable but despite his moral failings, he remains an engaging figure throughout the book. The intricate plotting allows for a intriguing, nuanced exploration of retribution and justice, and in a novel where every character is shaped by their flaws, it's impossible not to feel sympathy for Henning nor to feel moved by his predicament. 
Suspenseful and immersive throughout, the intimate first-person narration shared between Chastity and Stepanovic is tremendously effective, allowing the readers to viscerally experience their agitated thought processes and complex emotions. To complicate matters still further, a freak accident has left Chastity slowly succumbing to the toxins that have infiltrated her body, ironically mirroring the uneasy ambience within the increasingly noxious hotel room. The prose here becomes almost frantically hallucinogenic but despite the confusion, is still remarkably revelatory as the story heads towards its dramatic, shocking conclusion. 
The friction generated both inside and outside the hotel, past and present packs a surprisingly emotional punch but there is sharply observed humour here too, with the references to Morricone being a particular highlight. One of my favourite aspects of this series is always the chapter titles and they don't fail to delight again - how can you not love a book that features such headings as 'ARE THE NINJA TURTLES ON THEIR WAY?', 'THE WURST IS YET TO COME' or 'COLUMBOISHNESS'?!
As with all the books in this outstanding series, Hotel Cartagena effortlessly exudes the essence of film noir and Rachel Ward's superb translation deserves all the plaudits for capturing the supercharged emotions so perfectly. The sense of place throughout is exemplary, from the grey, damp claustrophobia of Hamburg to the dangerous temptations in Colombia while the acerbic dialogue and perceptive characterisation is tender and honest too. Possibly my favourite in the series so far, Hotel Cartagena is starkly atmospheric and oozing style but achingly poignant and beautifully compelling. Just sublime!

Hotel Cartagena is published by Orenda Books, it is available now in ebook and will be out in paperback from 5th March 2021. Purchasing links can be found here but please support independent bookstores whenever possible, either by buying directly or from

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 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 Saarbr├╝cken, 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.


  1. Hugest thanks for this blog tour support karen x

  2. I love Simone Buchholz and Rachel Ward - together they make a great team! And the author's style in German is pretty difficult to render into English, so kudos! My only gripe about this book is that there isn't enough Chastity involvement in things... would have liked to see more of her. But I suppose the author wanted to focus for a while on other things.

    1. Funnily enough, as much as I love Chastity, I really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know some other characters. I'm interested to see where she takes the series next given the ending here...


Post a Comment