Monday, 30 March 2020

New Release Spotlight & Extract: Mexico Street by Simone Buchholz

The latest in the critically acclaimed Chastity Riley series

by Simone Buchholz
translated by Rachel Ward

‘If Philip Marlowe and Bernie Gunther had a literary love child, it might just explain Chastity Riley - Simone Buchholz’s tough, acerbic, utterly engaging central character’ William Ryan, author of House of Ghosts.


‘This is a punk-rock album translated into a hard-bitten tale of low-life scum and a lone officer. Fierce enough to stab the heart’ Spectator on Blue Night

‘Lyrical and pithy’ The Sunday Times Crime Club on Blue Night

‘Simone Buchholz writes with real authority and a pungent, noir-is sense of time and space …
a palpable hit ’ Barry Forshaw, Financial Times

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…


Stepanovic has organised a large, bright office for us on an upper floor, immediately between his colleagues from the SCO and the organised-crime squad. The light that comes in from outside is almost dazzling; a North German morning in early summer can sometimes have a hint of Scandinavia about it. The four of us sit around a large table, Rocktäschel and Lindner, Stepanovic and me.

You were the first on the scene,’ he says to the two younger guys. ‘I want you on the team. And,’ with a glance at Rocktäschel, ‘I need you too, for Bremen. You must know your way around there pretty well, huh?’

Rocktäschel nods cautiously; something about the business seems to unsettle him.

Stepanovic writes our names on a sheet of paper and rests his right hand on my forearm, but only very briefly.

Have you spoken to the attorney general’s office to see if you’re staying on the case?’

I have,’ I say. ‘I am.’

He nods, leans back and looks at me. ‘Which of the murder guys shall we bring in?’

Are we sure that it was a murder?’ asks Lindner, chewing on a pencil and looking clever-clever. Someone must have told him that it’s vital always to chew on a pencil if you want to be listened to.

Hello?’ says Rocktäschel, looking at his partner as if he’s had about enough already. ‘Someone had clearly locked the car, the key’s not there, Saroukhan didn’t have his phone on him – whoever set fire to the vehicle was at least prepared for the chance that the bloke inside it would die. It’s manslaughter at least, with a generous helping of malicious intent on the side. And I was on the phone to the hospital a couple of minutes ago, so, let me spell it out for you: Nouri Saroukhan was fit and healthy and had been stabilised to the point that he really ought to have survived the smoke inhalation. Something must have weakened his body prior to that. And if he’d been conscious when the car started to burn, he’d have got out. If he was only drunk and too soundly asleep, it wasn’t murder. But if somebody put something in his drink or whatever, because he wanted to make sure that Saroukhan wouldn’t make it out of the car, then it all starts to look a bit different. The body’s with the coroner.’

He presses his lips together and gives his colleague a dirty look.

Lindner takes the pencil out of his mouth.

Stepanovic takes a deep breath and starts again: ‘Which of the murder guys shall we bring in?’

I reckon we ought to start by establishing whether it’s really such a good idea to have Rocktäschel and Lindner working together, but, hey, I’m not the one putting the squad together, so don’t mind me, suit yourselves, boys. Don’t come crying to me if there’s trouble.
My choice would be Calabretta and his team,’ I say, ‘or else whoever’s on call right now.’
Will you ring Calabretta for me, then?’ asks Stepanovic. ‘I’d be happy to have him on board.’ He writes the names Calabretta, Schulle, Brückner and Stanislawski on the piece of paper in front of him.

Will do,’ I say, roll my chair over to the corner and pull my phone out of my coat pocket. Out of the window, the early May sun is shining on the rooftops of the city.

It almost makes me dizzy.

Calabretta’s rather surprised when I tell him what it’s about, because I haven’t been in charge of a murder enquiry for ages. I tell him that it’s more him who’s in charge and that we’re starting off by seeing what the hell is going on. He says that he and his guys will be with us in five minutes.

When I hang up, Rocktäschel’s grabbed a thick blue pen and written the name Nouri Saroukhan on the large whiteboard on the wall at the head of the table.

We still need someone from OC, don’t we?’ he says.

I’ll do for organised crime for the moment,’ says Stepanovic, ‘that’s close enough. What we do still need, though, is a line to Bremen.’ He stands up, grabs his leather jacket, his cigarettes and his phone. ‘I’m popping out. I’ll make some calls.’

OK,’ I say, ‘so I’ll bring the murder guys up to speed in a moment. Rocktäschel, we need the photos from the crime scene. Is there anything on the system yet?’

He puts the pen away and sits down at one of the two computers. ‘I’ll get right on it.’

What shall I do?’ asks Lindner.

I look at him and immediately feel so tired that I could drop off on the spot.


Somebody ought to get hold of a coffee machine for us.’

If we had a decent director, something would fall from the ceiling with an almighty bang about now.

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.