STASI CHILD by David Young

The cover is so 'airport book shop' pick-me read - easy, light, thriller, a page turner, just the thing for a long flight. Or wet weekend. And the plot is also very easy and quick to come to grips with. Set in  East Germany in the 1970s you know already it isn't going to be a happy, cheerful, fun read. Corruption, bleakness, paranoia, spying, distrust and propaganda fill the pages of this very readable novel. It is definitely a step above that standard airport read, and I guarantee it will hold any reader's attention.

Oberleutnant Karin Muller is the highest ranked woman in the People's Police. She is a proud supporter of the political system she has been born into, happily accepting the propaganda about the West , its dysfunctional capitalism, its wastage and general depravity. She lives in a society where everyone is constantly under suspicion, who can you trust, wages are low, living conditions bleak and colourless, independent thought is actively discouraged with arrests and worse. Karin is married to a school teacher, Gottfried. Gottfried has already served penance at a reform school for watching Western movies and associating with a known communist. Hardly surprising the marriage is under strain.

Karin and her partner Tilsner are investigating the discovery of the body of a teenaged girl on the eastern side of the Wall, looking as if she was shot fleeing from the West. They are tasked by the Stasi to only find out the identity of the girl, not the identity of her murderer, which immediately raises the suspicions of Muller and Tilsner. Naturally things are never what they seem, and there are plenty of obstacles in the pursuit of the truth. Parallel to this detective work is the story of Irma , a young girl living in the reform school that Gottfried just happens to have been sent to. Irma is there for the sins of her mother, who is/was a prostitute. This is a truly horrible place, awful things happen which are tied up with the murder that Muller and Tilsner are working on. Gradually the two plot lines meld, Muller going beyond simply identifying the victim, naturally, but leading to the satisfactory conclusion. Although a number of loose threads.

Even better, this is the author's first novel in the Karin Muller series, so there were plenty of fish hooks dangling at the end to easily support another novel. She is quite a character, Karin Muller, although as another reviewer pointed out, she blushes way too often whenever attractive men are about. Hardly a characteristic you would think would be part of a senior toughened police officer. I can't Jane Tennison blushing in public!

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