editor's choice



The rain creates walls in the night. Falling from the sky, they are like mirrors, reflecting and warping the blue light from the police car.

Everything spins.

The street emerges from the darkness and loses itself behind the harbour lights, and there – right in the middle, just where it suddenly drops downhill – is where it happened: a cyclist.”


There’s something very compelling about Simone Buchholz’s writing – something which draws us into Beton Rouge and keeps us in the moment, from the very first word to the last. We’re immersed immediately in her dark yet stylish world, and that world pays more than a nod to classic noir.

Opening with a short but graphic description of public prosecutor Chastity Riley’s discovery of a hit-and-run victim in Hamburg, an event which has particular resonance for her, the action moves onto the case that Chastity and new colleague Ivo Stepanovic, of  ‘hardcore’ SCO 44, investigate together. A man has been found naked, unconscious and injured, locked in what looks like an animal cage, in front of the offices of a leading Germany magazine.

When a second man is discovered in similar circumstances, Chastity realises that the men have more in common than initially thought: yes, they are senior management of the company, are universally disliked and are involved in mass layoffs at the magazine, but their pasts also link them to a boarding school in Bavaria, southern Germany. But what’s the significance of it all?

Buchholz’s rhythmic style, which encompasses short, staccato sentences and some quite poetic evocations of melancholic Hamburg and the southern Germany hinterland, sets the tone for the book.

Classy, smartly written and extremely visual, I can’t recommend Beton Rouge enough. It’s quite frankly wonderful. Especially with some good jazz. And a single malt.


Beton Rouge | Simone Buchholz | Orenda Books | 21 February 2019 | paperback | £8.99

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Music suggestions: All Mornin’ Long, Red Garland Quintet, featuring Coltrane on tenor saxophone (1958); ‘Equinox‘, John Coltrane (1964); Anatomy of a Murder, Duke Ellington (soundtrack, 1959).


Acknowledgements: Text quote from book © Suhrkamp Verlag AG, Berlin 2017; English translation © Rachel Ward 2019. This review is published as part of the virtual book tour organised by Anne Cater, of Random Things Tours, to whom we extend our thanks. Many thanks also to the publisher for supplying a review copy of the book. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Photo © The Literary Shed 2019.

Also of interest: ‘Gallowstree Lane‘; The Lost Man‘; ‘Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdad’s Sing’; ‘The Story Keeper, Anna Mazzola’s Gothic novel‘; ‘Midland‘; ‘A Greater God‘; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘We should all be feminists’; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beautiful words – The Language of Secrets’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”’; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.


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