Simone Buchholz: Hotel Cartagena

Today I’m pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Hotel Cartagena. I’m sharing an extract from the book with thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and to Orenda Books for my copy of the extract.


Twenty floors above the shimmering lights of the Hamburg docks, Public Prosecutor Chastity Riley is celebrating a birthday with friends in a hotel bar when twelve heavily armed men pull out guns, and take everyone hostage. Among the hostages is Konrad Hoogsmart, the hotel owner, who is being targeted by a young man whose life – and family – have been destroyed by Hoogsmart’s actions.

With the police looking on from outside – their colleagues’ lives at stake – and Chastity on the inside, increasingly ill from an unexpected case of sepsis, the stage is set for a dramatic confrontation … and a devastating outcome for the team … all live streamed in a terrifying bid for revenge.

Crackling with energy and populated by a cast of unforgettable characters, Hotel Cartagena is a searing, relevant thriller that will leave you breathless.



The walls are made of glass, dangling from the black ceiling are a couple of dimmed spherical lamps, lying at our feet is the port of Hamburg in its gleaming night-time light. This bar makes such a big deal about the view that I shouldn’t really trust any drink I didn’t mix myself as far as I could throw it. Too much obtrusive beauty, too many look-at-me things, too much distraction. Surely no one can concentrate on their alcohol here. 

My people are sitting towards the back, at a large table. 

In front of it are loads of stand-up bar tables and barstools, a maze of stilts; beside it, a long, elegant bar. A dimly lit perspective with a spectacular view of this city at each end. 

It’s a puzzle to me why Faller has to celebrate his birthday here of all places, after all, we’re more out of place in a joint like this than a pack of mongrels in a plastic bag. Why aren’t we standing at a sticky bar in the Silbersack and drinking bottled beer, why aren’t we sitting in a dark pizzeria being noisy, and where’s the freaking jukebox in this place, oh, there isn’t one, got you, all you get here are two men, and just the sight of these self-same guys instantly crushes something inside me, just glimpsing them out of the corner of my eye is usually enough. 

Now I take a head-on look at each of them for a second, first Klatsche, then Inceman. 

My heart makes an unhealthy sound.

‘Hello,’ I say to everyone, partly to distract from that sound. 

And everyone’s like: ‘Hello?’ 

Yes, I know, I’m a bit late. 

‘Sorry I’m late, guys.’ 

‘Not to worry, my girl,’ says Faller, reaching for my hands and smiling at me. 

He looks good. 

He’s wearing a black roll-neck; he checked his hat and coat in at the cloakroom, just like everyone else checked their things in at the cloakroom. Faller lets go of my hands and I shove them in the pockets of my dark-blue bomber jacket. I’ll never check a jacket or coat in at a cloakroom. That’s like checking a suit of armour in at the cloakroom, you just can’t do that, it leaves you entirely defenceless. 

‘Pick yourself a nice spot,’ says Faller. 

Now he says that. 

There’s only one chair free. Between Brückner and Calabretta, so that makes it a very nice spot, except that it’s also diagonally opposite Klatsche, which makes it a very complicated spot. 

I sit down all the same, trying not to look in any particular direction, and ask: ‘Where’s Stepanovic then, don’t they allow cowboys in here or what?’ 

‘Half of us wouldn’t be here in that case,’ says Faller. 

And Carla says: ‘We thought you might know.’ There’s that undertone. ‘We thought you might arrive together.’

I know what she means and I try to give an unobtrusive smile to let her know that I know and, yes, I would actually have expected to turn up here with him, just because we’re pretty good at turning up to places together, but there have been certain moments in the last few months when things have got somewhat difficult between us.

I told him in high spirits – OK, more in export-strength spirits – that I still repeatedly go to bed with Inceman, and he considered that to be more than a little bit shit. 

I kind of got the impression that it really niggled at him. 

But I can’t help him there. I’m just the rather confusing kind of woman. 

I shake my head and say: ‘Haven’t heard from him for days. But he said last week that he was coming.’ 

‘Then he’ll be here,’ says Faller, determined not to let anything or anyone spoil the mood, least of all his friends. 

He’s probably the only person in the room who knows, with every fibre of his heart, just how confusing I am, and not just me, but us all, every person in the whole damn world even. Faller knows about the huge knot we form, which I can sometimes only vaguely perceive when I stumble past someone and in doing so catch hold of a hand and feel the little cracks, the damage to the surface and think: wow, you too? 

Stepanovic’s hands are full of them and while I’m thinking about his hands like that, I notice that there isn’t a chair for him if he really does come along later, and Rocco must have noticed too because he says: ‘Guys, we’re a chair short.’ 

Faller smiles around at us all. 

‘I didn’t actually expect all of you to turn up.’ 

‘I was totally expecting it,’ says Klatsche, and looks at me with that certain uh-huh look, and perhaps it’s worth mentioning that Inceman is looking at me with a similar I-can-see-into-your every-last-corner look. 


We’ve got a situation here. 


Hotel Cartagena is available from Amazon

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:


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