Review: Hotel Cartagena, by Simone Buchholz

Pub date: 4 MARCH 2021
ISBN 13: 978-1-913193-54-6
EPUB: 978-1-913193-55-3
Price: £8.99

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, stunning thriller that will leave
you breathless.

My Review

Thanks to Anne Cater for organising the blog tour and to Orenda Books for sending me a copy of this novel.

The Rosie Synopsis

Chastity Riley and friends go to Faller’s 65th birthday drinks at a posh hotel. Stephanovic is late, avoiding Chas, and her ex-lovers, who will be at the party.

Then a group of armed men burst into the bar and hold everyone at gunpoint. A few people are let out but they are there for a particular target.

In between the present events, the past leading up to the hostage situation is played out over thirty years and across the Atlantic.

The Good

Oh, wow, Simone Buchholtz has done it again. The translation is pretty damn good too.

The emotional whirlwind that is Chas Riley has landed in a bar, a very expensive bar and she doesn’t expect it to be fun, because of all the emotional baggage carried by her friends/lovers/ex-lovers/colleagues. She has a cut on her thumb and it’s not good. The tension is palpable before the hostage takers turn up. The writing style really lends itself to the emotional and psychological state of the characters, turning from prose into poetry when Chas becomes delirious. I love the writing style, you never know what’s going to happen next.

The back story for the events of the novel and events from Stephanovic’s point of view are written in an entirely different tone to those written from Riley’s perspective, showing the different mental states of the POV characters. It can feel a bit choppy at times, but I think that’s the point, to be unsettling?

Stephanovic gets his own chapters as he delays arriving at the party and then is totally focused on saving Riley. We learn more about his past and his personal daemons, why he hates the dark. He wants to be her knight in shining armour, but she’s not very good at being saved.

The back story is a complex web of deceit, ego and narcotics trading. Different, rather despicable characters come and go, destroying each others’ lives until the leader of the hostage takers decides to deal with the one he considers responsible for his own personal disasters. Explosively.

The sausage thing was quite disgusting too. Simone, you have a sick, sick mind. I love it.

The Not-So-Good

The sausage thing – the description make me want to vomit. I am never eating sausages in Germany.

The Verdict

Another poetic, twisted and brilliant instalment from Hamburg. Poor Chas is really going to struggle to get over this one.


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.


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