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** My thanks to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre Books for my copy of this book **

 

Description:

For the Stasi, it’s not just the truth that gets buried . . .

The body of a teenage boy is found weighted down in a lake. Karin Müller, newly appointed Major of the People’s Police, is called to investigate. But her power will only stretch so far, when every move she makes is under the watchful eye of the Stasi.

Then, when the son of Müller’s team member goes missing, it quickly becomes clear that there is a terrifying conspiracy at the heart of this case, one that could fast lead Müller and her young family into real danger.

Can she navigate this complex political web and find the missing boy, before it’s too late?

 

My Thoughts & Review:

It’s fair to say that I’ve been a fan of cold war thrillers and espionage reads for a long time, cutting my teeth on the likes of Len Deighton and John Le Carré, so when I first heard about this series back in 2015/2016 I jumped straight into reading it and quickly felt like I was in the company of a truly great writer.  Fast forward to 2018 and I am once again catching up with one of my favourite People’s Police comrades, Karin Müller in the third installment of the series.

For fans of the series, this book picks up some months along from the ending of Stasi Wolf, and although time has moved on Karin has adjusted to what life threw at her, it almost feels like we never parted.  Events feel fresh and interesting and the seedy clandestine world of conspiracy seems to leech into her everyday life regardless.
Now promoted to the lofty rank of Major in the People’s Police, Müller is tasked with heading up a new Serious Crimes Department to liaise at the highest levels with other agencies in the Republic, but at what cost?

One of the things I love about Young’s writing is that it feels so authentic, yes there is authorial license applied and this is a work of fiction but the essence of the plot feels real.  Having read many books set in the cold war, you become attuned to certain scenes, a certain level of tension and almost ready to be shocked when someone is identified as an agent (or double agent), but each book of this series gives the reader a feeling of being right there in the moment with Müller and deputy Tilsner.
The vivid descriptions of the settings and locations used in this book are superb, I could almost feel the chill of the air as Müller tried pull her raincoat lapels up to keep the sleet away from her face, I could almost smell the forest that Müller visited, and could see such clear images in my mind whilst I read of the scenes throughout.

The characters in the series continue to intrigue me, whilst we learn more about Müller with each book, we also learn a little more about her deputy.  Werner Tilsner has been a character that has drawn my attention for a while now, something about him keeps me on my toes and indeed it seems to give Müller a moment of pause too, is he a Stasi agent?  Where did he get his fancy watch?  Just what connections does he have?  I’ve not managed to work it out yet but that won’t stop my mind going into overdrive trying to puzzle it out!
Either way, they make a great team and work really well together.  There is a sense of loyalty there between them that Müller really needs when she’s dealing with the murky waters of the Stasi.

The glossary at the back of the book adds useful translations of the authentic German words used (I had great fun testing my knowledge of German with these and pleased to admit that I can still remember German curse words, all that time at school wasn’t wasted after all), and the author’s note adds an extra layer to the plot, explaining where artistic licence may have been employed or explaining details from the plot.

Absolutely masterful plotting, packed with tension and so wonderfully gripping, this is a magnificent book and I cannot wait to see what David Young has planned for book 4!

Highly recommended!!

You can buy a copy of A Darker State via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

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Published: 9 February 2017
Reviewed: 2 January 2017

4 out of 5 stars

Copy provided by Bonnier Zaffre in return for an honest review

 

Description:

For me David Young has cemented his place on the bookshelf alongside my Cold War thrillers by John le Carré and Len Deighton.

You can buy a copy of Stasi Wolf here.

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Author: Elisabeth Herrmann

Published: 24 March 2016
Reviewed: 9 September 2016

5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Bonnier Publishing in return for an honest review

 

Description:

An unforgettable heroine. An unforgiveable past.

For fans of Child 44, The Lives of Others, and Stasi Child, The Cleaner is a gripping thriller that will chill and intrigue as the sins of the past catch up with the secrets of the present.

Pools of blood, scenes of carnage, signs of agonising death – who deals with the aftermath of violence once the bodies have been taken away?

Judith Kepler has seen it all. She is a crime scene specialist. She turns crime scenes back into habitable spaces. She is a cleaner.

It is at the home of a woman who has been brutally murdered that she is suddenly confronted with her own past. The murder victim knew Judith’s secret: as a child Judith was sent to an orphanage under mysterious circumstances – parentage unknown. And the East German secret police were always there, in the background. . . .

When Judith begins to ask questions, she becomes the target of some powerful enemies.

My Thoughts & Review:

The Cleaner is a Cold War thriller rife with espionage, deceit and intrigue.

The opening scene in Yuri Gagarin Children’s Home in East Germany in 1985 really reinforces the mentality of period – a young girl named Christel Sonnenberg is found wandering in the corridors and is escorted back to her bed.  However the member of staff is advised she is mistaken, this is not Christel Sonnenberg but Judith Kepler, and afraid of any fallout, the member of staff agrees (during the Cold War in East Germany it was easier and safer to not argue with what you were told), and henceforth this girl is known as Judith.

Some years later and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we encounter ‘Judith Kepler’ again, but now she is an adult and working  as a cleaner – making homes habitable again after death has occurred.  Her latest assignment is to clean an apartment following the murder of the previous occupier, but whilst she is there she finds a letter with her name on it, and details of her time at the Children’s Home.   This leads her to an intelligence expert for help to find answers but leads to some very dangerous developments.

Intelligently written, Herrmann pulls together strands of a fascinating story with factual nuances of Stasi Germany to create an atmospheric and immersive read.
The character of Judith/Christel is a great creation, here we have someone who is realistic, flawed yet strong, and the job that she does ties in so well with her nature, quiet and methodical.

The pace of the story is fast, the suspense really builds and keeps the reader hooked throughout.

This is without a doubt one of the cleverest thrillers I’ve read,  the political tightrope of the period makes for a very intriguing layer to the story.  The idea of job that Judith does is very intriguing and not one that I had ever really given much thought to, but definitely adds another pull of intrigue to this book.  The translation to English has lost nothing of the original brilliance.

You can buy a copy of The Cleaner here.

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