An original and accomplished debut thriller, “Stasi Child” is a compelling police procedural set in 1970s Cold War Germany.
East Berlin, 1975: When Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a girl’s body at the foot of the Wall, she realizes this is a death like no other. It seems the girl was trying to escape – but from the West. The Stasi want her to discover the identity of the girl, but assure Müller the case is otherwise closed. This is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Müller doesn’t realize that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home…Unlike any police procedural I’ve read before, this novel is set in Berlin – before the wall came down. The plot is intricate but well rendered so that even the many unfamiliar names, places and references do not detract from its enjoy-ability.
The book, though fiction, was meticulously researched and taught me a lot about the culture and history of socialist East Berlin. Although very familiar with books set during the war with references to the German SS, I was NOT familiar with the term ‘Stasi’. Stasi is the commonly used name for The Ministry for State Security. The Stasi were a secret police force whose mandate was to spy on the general population. To further their mandate they utilized a network of informants.
The book is told in two principal voices, the first being that of the policewoman Karin Müller. A young woman, she is the first female to head the homicide division of the People’s Police. Childless, she is married to a teacher named Gottfried, yet is very attracted to her deputy, Tilsner. Karin is a loyal citizen who (for the most part) believes in the fairness of her socialist country. Her past holds some very traumatic memories which come to light over the course of the story.
Karin is tasked with finding the identity of the dead girl. A teenager who was viciously murdered and then mutilated to hide her identity making Karin’s task an arduous one. She is to work in cooperation with a Stasi officer named Jäger whom she doesn’t completely trust. For that matter, she doesn’t completely trust her deputy Tilsner either.
The second voice of the story is that of Irma Behrendt. A young teenage girl who is in a sort of reform school called a Jugendwerkhof, on the island of Rügen. Here she and her best friend, Beate endure hardship and abuse.
I love it when the title of a book fits the story as much as this one did. The author makes the choice of title abundantly clear in the narrative.
This book contains a glossary of German terms and phrases. Very helpful to the reader if you are reading a paper book, but not so helpful to those, like me, who read the book electronically. I didn’t discover the glossary until after I’d finished the book.
This is an authentic story of corruption and lost innocence. A novel that shows to what lengths people will go to fulfill their desires. It is a novel with a bleak and chilling atmosphere that lends itself well to the plot. At times brutal, the narrative was set during the winter (as the cover suggests). This book will appeal to a wide audience, both male and female. Anyone who enjoys thrillers, historical fiction, political/spy stories, and of course police-procedural mysteries.
This is David Young’s debut novel and the first of a proposed trilogy. I very much look forward to visiting Karin Müller again in his next book, “The Stasi Wolf“.
Watch this space!
I’m delighted to inform you that David Young has consented to an interview on this blog. Coming soon…
David Young was born near Hull, England. Temporary jobs cleaning ferry toilets and driving a butcher’s van were followed by a career in journalism with provincial newspapers, a London news agency, and the BBC’s international newsrooms where he led news teams for the World Service radio and World TV.
David was a student on the inaugural Crime Thriller MA at City University – winning the course prize in 2014 for his debut novel Stasi Child – and now writes full-time in his garden shed.
Stasi Child is the first of three books in the Oberleutnant Karin Müller series – set in 1970s communist East Germany. Stasi Child has been optioned for TV by Euston Films (Minder, The Sweeney etc). Translation rights have so far been sold to France.