Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz is published with Orenda Books. The latest novel in the Chastity Riley series, it is described as ‘searing, breathtakingly original, and unexpectedly moving’. Translated by Rachel Ward, Hotel Cartagena, takes the reader on a rather surreal adventure from Hamburg to Columbia and to the Caribbean island of Curaçao.
Tenacious and hard-speaking Public Prosecutor Chastity Reilly is out socially with friends celebrating a birthday. A mixed bag, they all have a story to tell and have varied relationships with Chastity. A very unexpected turn of events results in a hostage-taking situation which includes Chastity and all her friends. With very few others in the hotel bar in question, the attention eventually turns to one well-dressed man, the hotel owner, Konrad Hoogsmart. This is a very personal vengeance situation between one of the hostage-takers and Hoogsmart but why? What did Hoogsmart do to anger this man, this person who is focussed on one thing only and that is to make Hoogsmart pay.
Buchholz takes the reader back to 1984 when a young man, frustrated with his life in Germany, boards a ship and sails to Columbia. He arrives to the port town of Cartagena and, with hard work, he builds a reputation for himself, soon falling onto the radar of a drug faction. He is loyal and his ability to get the job in hand done is noted. Soon he becomes indispensable, but never safe. After much success in his chosen business an unfortunate incident occurs resulting with him packing up his family and his life and disappearing to Curaçao. Here he hoped to live an anonymous life in a relatively safe environment with his family. But one cannot escape one’s past, as he eventually finds out with tragic consequences. Now he is back in Germany with only one thing on his mind, revenge.
With short, snappy and cleverly entitled chapters, Hotel Cartagena is a tale of two stories. We have the story of a young man with a dream whose life took some very fateful turns and we have the modern-day tale of a hostage crisis, with our leading lady Chastity Reilly right in the thick of it. I really enjoyed the story of this young man from the back streets of St Pauli, Hamburg and his rise through a drug-funded lifestyle in Cartagena to his subsequent downfall in Curaçao. But on returning to the bar with Chastity Reilly and her friends my reaction was mixed. Chastity contracts sepsis while in the bar resulting in her state of mind being quite erratic and dreamlike with meandering thoughts that left me quite confused when I turned the final page. The translation is incredible, capturing the staccato nature of Chastity’s thoughts and the disjointed text that reads almost like a poem. The style of writing is unorthodox and definitely requires a different approach when reading. Hard-boiled noir with a distinctly modern German twist, Hotel Cartagena is an experience, an, at times, almost psychedelic trip inside the head of Chastity Reilly. An interesting and very original read!
(c) Swirl and Thread
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