14 March 2020

#Blogtour #Review - Mexico Street by Simone Buchholz

Mexico Street (Chastity Riley 3)
Cover design by kid-ethic
Simone Buchholtz (trans Rachel Ward)
Orenda Books, 5 March 2020
PB, e, 227pp

I'm grateful to Karen at Orenda Books for a free advance copy of Mexico Street and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

If you've read Buchholz's previous books, Blue Night and Beton Rouge, you'll know to expect the doom, pared down, noirish atmosphere, the short chapters, the sense of desolation as Chastity Riley, Hamburg state prosecutor, narrates her life. The language is so hard, so abstracted that sections read almost as prose poetry and on the surface it is so bleak that it could repel if it weren't for a streak of, I don't know, a... something... in Riley's tone, a self-knowingness, a sardonic interest in the world's follies and failures that keeps her, and therefore us, engaged.

In this third bulletin from Riley's life we find her even more moodily lonely. She seems to be smoking more (how?) drinking more, and to be losing even the limited family she had: no Klatschke, of course - his flat a looming emptiness in Riley's psyche - so we don't see the bar but we hardly vist Rocco and Carla's café either and those cosy, spontaneous evenings where the place goes from public bar to family party without trying seem long gone, the little coterie split and uneasy.

Rather, much of the book's airtime is given over to Riley's and her colleagues' investigation of a young man dragged barely alive from a burning car (in this book, cars are burning everywhere - night by night the fires spread across Germany, then Europe, until news bulletins begin to report them from all around the world). Tracing what happened to him leads her to a secretive group of families living by crime on the fringes of German society, an interrelated web of feuding cousins and macho fathers and brothers (and trampled wives, sisters and daughters). Buchholtz writes movingly of the plight of these women and sympathy for them is one thing that prods Riley out of her ennui.

I always enjoy the Chastity Riley books, not only because they have a uniquely dark vision of life but because Buchholtz shows how this darkness coexists with blissful, unaware, lives often very close (geographically or emotionally - I suppose that's why I missed those evenings Riley used to enjoy the café). Well, that contrast was never so strong as in Mexico Street and alongside Riley's investigation we also see, sketched out, lives on the dark side of that wall and the voices of those who want out. It makes for compulsive, if disturbing, reading, the end in one sense already determined by the opening of the book but also wide open as there are people out there Buchholz has made us care for, care about (despite the bleakness! Despite the darkness!) and we want to know more about them

It's a short book but, my goodness, it packs in a tremendous amount. And Rachel Ward's translation serves the story, serves the mood, so well too.

Recommended without hesitation.

For more about Mexico Street see the Orenda Books website here.

You can buy the book from your local bookshop, or online via Hive Books who support high street bookshops, or from Blackwell's, Foyles, WH Smith, Waterstones or Amazon.

The tour continues - look at the poster below for the wonderful bloggers lined up for this book!


  1. Huge thanks for the blog tour support David xx

    1. Thank you for that Anne, it means a lot to me. Always a pleasure!