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Thriller set in East Berlin (… before it became just ‘Berlin’)

15th October 2015

Stasi Child by David Young – thriller set in East Berlin (… with excursions to other parts of East Germany).

IMG_2211Stasi Child transports the reader back to the 1970s, when Berlin was East and West – divided by The Wall (or the Anti Fascist Protection Barrier as the East Germans authorities preferred to call it…). It is a stark reminder of times really only just gone by… Times when the Stasi – the East German secret police – controlled the population absolutely and were kept up to speed by a network of informants amongst the ordinary (and fearful) people. Times when the average East German could only dream of life in the West – but also times when the top East German brass could move freely into West Berlin to savour the delights of the city. The very name ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ conjures up images of the Cold War… I once passed through it from West to East – feeling a little like a character from a John le Carré novel.

Stasi Child is a good and evocative read. It is the story of  a girl found dead in a cemetery just on the East German side of The Protection Barrier. Her body has been laid out to indicate that she was shot whilst crossing from West to East – a pretty unlikely scenario as we soon discover. Karin Müller, a Lieutenant in the Criminal Police (or Kripo) is called to the scene to find Klaus Jäger, a senior Stasi officer already there and ‘in charge’ of the investigation. He tells Karin that she and her team should find out who the girl is, but go no further. They should not try and identify the perpetrator. Needless to say she ‘ignores’ the instruction – and, actually and for reasons that become clear, Jäger is quite happy with her probing. The two form an unlikely team – with not a great deal of trust between them. Jäger, though, always seems one step ahead of Karin’s investigations.

The story moves to a Jugendwerkhof (literally ‘Reformatory’) on the Baltic Sea coast of Northern Germany. It is a ‘place of correction’ for adolescents who have bucked the system or who are deemed to be at risk. It is run with a rod of iron by Director F Neumann, a sadistic and thoroughly unpleasant character. Three girls and a boy have been moved to another institution – or have they? Have they perhaps escaped, and is the escape being covered up? Is one of the girls possibly the murder victim – and, if so, who could have killed her, and why? Karin and her investigating partner, Werner Tilsner, follow the clues and place themselves in considerable danger as the story moves to its frightening conclusion.

Stasi Child is great read – not just for the story itself (exciting and gripping as it is) – but also because it brings back most vividly a time that most of us have forgotten (or, indeed, are too young to remember). East Germany, and its institutions, have a place in modern history. David Young has researched the book extensively, and its believability shines through. In the Introduction he explains the system and the way it worked in some detail – and at the end of the book he includes a glossary of the authentic German terms he has used, translated into English.

It is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Tony for the TripFiction team

You can follow David on Facebook and of course connect with the Team at TripFiction via social media: TwitterFacebook and Pinterest and when we have some interesting photos we can sometimes be found over on Instagram too.

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