The main protagonist in this crime thriller read for German lit month VIII is the hamburg state prosecutor Chastity Riley, in this book which I too learnt afterwards was the sixth in a series, maybe why there were so many characters around her (well Simone Buchholtz had had five books to develop them), Chastity is a city girl, a Hamburg girl, what is she thinking of? Driving into the countryside. After she breaks down somewhere between“Mecklenberg and wherethehellever” we learn from her friend Faller“Why do you do these things Chastity? Just head off out of town? you need your concrete” I guess she really is a city girl.
Chastity has been relegated to witness protection for a sombre story including gunshot wounds to a criminals testicles and launching a corruption case against her bosses. As the story opens her next protection case is being prepared for her in the back streets of Hamburg:
“Then they whip the coshes out from under their jackets. Three jackets, three coshes. Left leg, right leg. Left arm, right arm. And six feet for twelve pairs of ribs. Your very own many-headed demon. Tailor-made to order. Then out come the pliers. Right index finger. A clean crack. But you’re left-handed; they don’t know everything.”
Well as I skipped through the opening chapter and the man being beat to a pulp was able to congratulate himself on his attackers not knowing everything (that he was right handed) I thought to myself : “well he’ll still be able to write” and then later in the book I felt like Marylyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot: Not very bright he needed his trigger finger for something other than writing
Chastity is a right and ready street girl, used to working the shadier areas of Hamburg and can hold her own in any drink and cigarette contest, after gaining her witness’ confidence, she gets out of Hamburg for the day, following a lead, I get to feeling that Leipzig really isn’t like Hamburg, that said I’ve never been to Leipzig, I like the nail scissors.
“Leipzig looks like any other medium sized German city, only a bit better, tidy in a Bavarian kind of way, pretty, old, picture book, listed buildings everywhere, we come to a tree lined square that looks like it was smartened up with nail scissors.”
As the story moves on we find ourselves in the drug business with two unlikely drugs in the same operation, Croc and Crystal meth, Unlikely I said:
“Croc, codeine tablets cooked up with Formic acid and match heads is meth’s cousin from hell, dead in six months… with meth you can hold it together for years, Croc kills quickly, it doesn’t quite fit the business model”
Throughout the story there are many references to Hamburg, as here for instance as the story draws to an end:
“Faller and me on the erholung promenade in St. Pauli we’re smoking and drinking coffee from paper cups the jetties are below us, a few ships, a few tourists, a lot of gold, no sun in the sky.”
She’s a Saint Pauli girl alright, wait for the football match, everybody standing, no one in the boxes.
First Published in German as “Blaue Nacht” in 2017 by Suhrkamp Verlag.
Translated into English by Rachel Ward and published in 2017 by Orenda Books