Series: Chastity Riley
Book Number: 1
Read this book for: modern noir, lawyer as investigator, woman investigator, multi-angle investigation
Quick Review: Dark, bleak and rough around the edges; a perfectly gritty modern noir novel.
After convicting a superior for corruption and shooting off a gangster’s crown jewels, the career of Hamburg’s most hard-bitten state prosecutor, Chastity Riley, has taken a nose dive: she has been transferred to the tedium of witness protection to prevent her making any more trouble. However, when she is assigned to the case of an anonymous man lying under police guard in hospital – almost every bone in his body broken, a finger cut off, and refusing to speak in anything other than riddles – Chastity’s instinct for the big, exciting case kicks in. Using all her powers of persuasion, she soon gains her charge’s confidence, and finds herself on the trail to Leipzig, a new ally, and a whole heap of lethal synthetic drugs. When she discovers that a friend and former colleague is trying to bring down Hamburg’s Albanian mafia kingpin single-handedly, it looks like Chas Riley’s dull life on witness protection really has been short-lived…
BLUE NIGHT is the first in the Chastity Riley series, following a state prosecutor through her life and some of her investigations. This novel focuses on how her attempts to protect the victim of a violent attack turn into a much larger investigation of their own.
This novel is the first in a series which is written in German, translated by Rachel Ward, that promises to be excellent. We do get some glimpses into Riley’s background in this instalment, so it is likely a good idea to pick it up before others in the series.
The most notable aspect of this novel is the style and atmosphere that Buchholz does such an incredible job of crafting. The story becomes an experience in its own right for the reader just from the way the story is built; you experience the confusion and grittiness of Chastity’s lifestyle through half-remembered snippets, abandoned lines of thought, and abrupt cuts and time jumps. If you are looking for a story told in a straightforward, linear way, this is not the book for you — but it is absolutely brilliant as a storytelling method.
It does help that Buchholz has also created a fascinating cast of characters. Like any good noir story, these characters all exist somewhere in the fringes and untidy intersections between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters. Criminals rub shoulders with cops and prosecutors, everyone makes questionable decisions from time to time, and you find yourself caring about who they are rather than what they have done, which is the mark of extremely well-done character building. They can’t be easily categorized, and they lend all the colour to a grey and gritty world.
And Buchholz does paint a bleak picture of Hamburg. Not only is this perspective a refreshingly different one regarding Hamburg, but it’s so interesting to see a non-American city get a truly modern noir treatment. It’s noir done to perfection but without stereotype, from the red-light districts and scruffy or industrial areas of town, to acquaintances and friends of ill repute, to hard-luck protagonists with deep personal issues.
All this before even addressing the plot! While not overly complicated, Buchholz handles the story with exquisitely slow pacing, teasing out one piece of information after another. This is absolutely a novel that will have you turning pages without fail until you reach the end!
If you’re a fan of noir or are looking for a different kind of crime read, BLUE NIGHT is absolutely a novel you should pick up. Its relative length (under 200 pages) makes it readable in one sitting, which is something you will likely want to do as soon as you begin!