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Stasi Child: A Karin Müller Thriller Hardcover – 1 August 2017
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- Publisher : Minotaur Books (1 August 2017)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250121752
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250121752
- Dimensions : 14.68 x 3.56 x 21.36 cm
- Customer Reviews:
"Outstanding...Fans of Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko will welcome Müller."--Publishers Weekly (starred)
"Chilling" --Daily Telegraph (UK)
"Extremely engaging" --Sunday Express (UK)
"Can't get enough cold-war Germany after Deutschland 83? This is your latest reading companion" --Shortlist
"Deft, assured storytelling, a compelling new detective and a fascinating setting--I was up late to finish it!" --Gilly Macmillan, author of What She Knew
"One of the best reads I've had in ages. With its masterful intertwining of dual storylines and its stark portrayal of life behind the Berlin Wall, this is a cracking debut." --David Jackson, bestselling author of Cry Baby
"Deep and dark, this debut is utterly gripping, sucking you in straight from the get go . . . a corker of an ending. Superb." --Nikki Owen, author of The Spider in the Corner of the Room
"Young has recreated excellently the fear and paranoia that permeated East German society . . . I really liked this novel and strongly recommend it." --The Crime Warp
"If, like me, you have enjoyed the Soviet-based crime fiction of authors such as Martin Cruz Smith, William Ryan, Tom Rob Smith or Sam Eastland, this will prove itself an absolute must-read . . . Young has more than proved that his name will be one to watch in the future with this powerful, well-researched and intriguing thriller. A highly recommended debut." --Raven Crime Reads
"I was in awe whilst reading this novel. David Young manages to capture beautifully the sense of place . . . This is a terrific crime read; with its insight into a bygone era and a fascinating political slant." --Northern Crime
"Gripping. The personal and criminal elements are both immediately engaging and well paced. The threads ultimately coalesce to form an astonishingly powerful depiction of life in a totalitarian state and the ending is stunning." --Buried Under Books
"A promising debut, an astutely considered novel of detection and place, redolent of dread, paranoia and suspicion. If you are a fan of Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series, this will appeal. Though it's stylistically more sober than Kerr's noirish novels, the Berlin background is just as authentically realized. Young demonstrates he has not only a fine heroine but a nice eye for action, claustrophobic detail and a lurking, just-under-control sense of the gothic."--The Australian, ARTS
"A self-confessed obsessive, Young's period detail--what kind of tire tracks Stasi official's cars left--is impressive." --New Zealand Herald
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Top reviews from Australia
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life before the Wall came down.
Its worth considering.
Can be recommended.
Top reviews from other countries
Now before I start I just want to state that this book dealt with subjects which are very close to my heart & my interests. I have a degree in German, studied (& loved) modern German history and I love visiting Germany to experience the culture and people.
I had high hopes for this book and I was not to be disappointed. I honestly & truly LOVED this book. It is very well written and very well structured. In fact I found it hard to believe that it was a debut novel, it really is that good. The language used & style of writing really does convey the grim conditions & atmosphere of the time. The GDR really was a secretive state which tried to control its people. Nobody knew who to trust and it was a regime which encouraged everybody to spy on each other & to inform the state of anything which could damage the regime. Quite often this meant that there was a sort of battle where man was pitted against wife, brother against sister, child against parents & friend against friend. This story really is a frightening insight into how such a state machine operated.
The characters in ‘Stasi Child’ were well formed and convincing. I took to Karen right for the start and by the end of the book I really did feel rather sorry for her. Most of her superiors were shady characters who have something or somebody to hide.
Subjects dealt with in this book include murder, violence, child abuse, corruption, betrayal and secrecy. The reader has to remember though that this book is set in the 1970s and attitudes of that time are different to attitudes of today.
This book is full of red herrings, twists and turns. The author is convincing in the language he uses and he really knows how to ramp up the sense of drama as well as build a high level of tension. Reading this book became like an addiction to me in that you just had to read on. Just a page more, just a chapter more etc. In fact this book was responsible for more than one sleepless night as I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and read on. The storyline and characters just kept whirring in my head.
Whilst reading this book I often felt like I was back in Berlin and revisiting old haunts, as the descriptions of the city in the book were so vivid and convincing. This book makes me feel nostalgic and has reignited my desire to go back to Germany and learn more about its history post 1945.
This is a brilliant first novel and I can’t wait to read more in the Karen Mueller series. It is my view that this series would be easily adaptable to and make an excellent television drama series.
The plot, in and of itself, gets a bit ridiculous towards the end and requires a fair amount of swallowing of disbelief, but the journey to that point is tense and interesting. I think Mr Young does a good job of portraying the paranoia and distrust that ran through everyday life in the DDR - you never knew who would report a throw away remark or misinterpret what you said as the Stasi had spies everywhere. I think the situation with Gottfried is a bit contrived (can't say more without spoilers) but what happens to him, except the ending, is all too plausible and I loved the contortions the State goes through to paint itself as lily white.
Unlike some of the other reviewers I like Karin Mueller. I like the fact that she believes in the State as too many novels seem too "western" with jaded investigators kicking against the traces of a totalitarian regime and think it adds another facet to her personality. Otherwise she is a typical fictional detective - too dedicated to her job, to the detriment of her social life.
Stasi Child is an interesting read and I found it quite compelling, wanting to know where the investigation was going next. I didn't like the flashbacks to the victim's life as I felt it interrupts the flow of the main narrative and whilst informative isn't essential to the novel. I was impressed enough with it, however, to want to read the sequel.
Muller is tasked to uncover the identity of the girl but only as part of a Missing Persons investigation, not as the murder which has obviously taken place. The Stasi discourage her questions and it soon becomes clear there is a deeper more sinister crime taking place behind the scenes, of which Muller is not to seek knowledge. Her colleague Tilsner wants them taken off the case, understanding the complications of working "alongside" the Stasi and how it will limit and compromise their investigation but Muller is principled, of a curious mind and proud to be the only female head of a Murder Squad in the whole country. She continues to investigate the crime despite the dangerous path it will set her on.
Young wastes no time grabbing the reader and pulling them quickly into the complications of a dark, foreboding crime scene. The book opens with Muller waking with a hangover and a creeping realisation that she has spent the night away from her husband Gottfried and with her colleague Tilsner instead. Tilsner is insolent and disrespectful; Muller full of remorse and reprisal. The detailed description of her headaches, Tilsner's apartment and their actions is so grim and distasteful it fills the reader with a sense of foreboding tension from the outset. Having fought so hard to survive in a man's world and gain the impressive position as Head of Murder Squad, Muller is anxious that she could not have "people calling her a whore". Already the sense that Muller has a fight ahead of her is implied. The already dark and aggressive atmosphere only becomes more sinister and grim with their visit to the cemetery where the body of a murdered girl has been discovered. Young writes of "ever darkening clouds in the sky" and alongside the strained relationship between the colleagues, the unpleasant dialogue and behaviour of Tilsney towards Muller and the fierce, unapproachable, threatening and secretive nature of the Stasi, the stage is set for a thriller of the most bleak and riveting kind.
The narrative then switches to 1974 and a Jugenwerkhof - a Youth Reformatory School. Here Young evokes the cruel brutality of the children's routine and daily life. There is no hiding from the relentless barrage of violence and abuse in this novel. It is graphic at times but simultaneously compelling, enthralling and engrossing. I had read almost a third of the book without even noticing and found it hard to break away from.
The mystery continues to unfold at a rapid pace. Why are the Stasi so keen to hide the truth? Who has gone to so much trouble to "stage" the murder and interfere with the evidence? Who is this girl and why is it so difficult to identify her?
The fascinating thing about this criminal investigation is how the lines of enquiry are controlled by the Stasi. Muller is frequently prevented from fully accessing information and she is repeatedly warned not to challenge the official version of the girl's death: "You have exceeded the terms of your inquiry" and Muller will be arrested if "you don't comply." She "shivers from the implied threats (from the Stasi) as much as the cold." But she remains prepared to "search every corner of the Republic to find the identity of the girl" and I loved the added suspense that this angle brought to the novel. The pressure and heightened hostility about not being able to fully investigate a crime and the anxiety of repercussions if you do, really enhance the gritty atmosphere of this engaging, page turning read.
Muller's husband Gottfried then becomes a more central character. Fundamentally Karin conforms to the communist regime although her compassion and principled nature will begin to challenge this and adds a further complexity to her character. But Gottfried is already under suspicion from the authorities - this is a risk to Karin in her position, mixed up with the further issue that the couple are unhappy and unkind to each other. The dramatic events which surround Gottfried are so well captured that at times it is impossible to tear your eyes away from the pages even though the brutality, violence and torture are quite harrowing. I loved the way the prose became more bleak and was reduced to its most basic form in order to accentuate the harshness of the Stasi. "Night time: light on light off on off on off" and "Another night. Another day. Another night.....this hellish place." Young's historical detail is so vivid and well researched that the atmosphere, characters and situations are authentic and believable. His knowledge of the procedures in a Stasi prison is impressive and ensure that every aspect of this novel is convincing and credible. The reader is completely immersed in 1975 East Germany.
Alongside all this, the story of Irma and her attempts to escape from the Jugendwerkhof continue. Also the narrative of nightmares.
The three story lines weave themselves together as the plot thickens and charges towards a brilliant ending. It is a very gripping read.
The most impressive thing about this novel is Young's ability to transport the reader back in time to a regime of repression, oppression, fear, mistrust and accusation. It's such an interesting era in which to set a crime as it is the perfect backdrop for stories of corruption and intimidation. Young's thorough research and attention to historical detail does not overburden or detract from the plot in any way - it actually enhances it. There is no need to have any prior knowledge or familiarity with the historical and social context, it's an accessible and fast paced read. It is a claustrophobic read; the setting and the characters are so vividly depicted that the atmosphere of paranoia oozes from every page. It really is a well observed and exciting crime novel that reads with such fluidity and expertise it's was a surprise to find out this was Young's debut novel. I was convinced it must have been part of an established series but now of course am in the fortunate position of being able to look forward to many more episodes in the Karin Muller series!
With the current rise in "Nordic Noir" fiction and Television series and the equally engrossing and powerful programme "Deutschland 83", this book is a timely release and will appeal to all fans of this genre. For lovers of crime and detective fiction it will undoubtedly deliver you a 5 star read. Muller is a strong female character and I hope to follow her career in the Murder Squad for many more years!
Currently this book is available on Kindle for £1.79 - this is ridiculously cheap and I urge you to download it! Amazon reviews have rated it 4.5/5 and on Goodreads it has an equally impressive 4/5 star rating. The book sits in the WHSmith top 20 and also in its "Hottest Books of the Week" section. So don't just take my word for it - grab yourself a copy and go back to an all too frighteningly recent period in European History for an "edge of your seat", "breathtaking" ride from which Young refuses to let you leave until you have turned the very last page!
For more recommendations, reviews and bookish chat please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacUK)
Müller and her side-kick Tilsner (People’s Police) are tasked by the Stasi to find the identity of a young, disfigured girl who has been found dead in a graveyard in the east. Things are made very difficult due to the underlying secrecy issues and restrictions placed on the investigators. At times, it’s hard to work out who is the goodie and who is the baddie. There is an awful lot of detail and the storyline moves from place to place, quite rapidly.
Not a bad read for the historical facts but a little slow for a thriller.