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Tuesday 21 February 2017

‘Stasi Wolf’ by David Young

Published by Zaffre Publishing,
9 February 2017.

East Germany (the Democratic German Republic – DDR) in the 1970s under the iron rule of Erich Honecker, while to the East Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the USSR, has enunciated the Brezhnev Doctrine: ‘When forces that are hostile to socialism try to turn the development of some socialist country towards capitalism, it becomes not only a problem for the country concerned, but a common problem and concern for all socialist countries’. No member of the Warsaw Pact (the military alliance between Eastern European countries) could leave the Pact. The uprising in Hungary in 1956 was ruthlessly suppressed as was that in Czechoslovakia in 1968. And in East Germany in 1953 modest unrest had been cracked down on. Honecker himself had re-emphasised Marxism-Leninism and the international class struggle although he did also in an effort try to emphasise a separate identity for the GDR and to make his regime more acceptable by promoting the idea of ‘consumer socialism’ such as building new towns.

In this self-contained follow-on to the prizewinning Stasi Child Oberleutnant Karin Muller, having trodden on various toes in her previous investigation, and has been demoted from head of the Berlin Murder squad to investigating minor offences. And her colleague Werner Tilsner is in hospital having been severely wounded. So when she is offered a transfer to the Criminal Investigation Department of the People’s Police (Kripo) of the new town Halle-Neustadt and is warned that if she turns that down that will be the end of any ambitions, she takes it especially when told she will be allowed to have her own choice as deputy. She also takes her own forensic officer Kriminaltechniker Jonas Schmidt. But when she gets to Halle-Neustadt she finds that this celebrated achievement of GDR communism is even more soulless than its equivalents in Western Europe. And that the case she is to investigate is that of two kidnapped new-born twin babies – hardly equal to full-blown murders. But on no account can she publicise the investigation because it might detract from the supposedly idyllic new town picture. And the Stasi are there to ensure that there will be no departure from the rule of secrecy even when one of the babies is found dead and Karin discovers that other new-born twins have gone missing and that there are even long-dead remains. So how can she carry out an effective investigation? And all her attempts lead her up one dead end after another while at the same time it becomes clear that someone will stop at nothing to prevent the truth emerging. And there is another complications in the person of Dr Wollenberg, a relationship which will change Karin’s life for ever in a way she had not thought possible. Moreover, Karin’s own past and her uneasy relationship with her family come to the fore in a way she finds difficult to cope with.

As in the previous novel, the author has written a compelling narrative with a secure historical foundation. Recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May.

David Young was born near Hull and - after dropping out of a Bristol University science degree - studied Humanities at Bristol Polytechnic. 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 international radio and TV newsrooms. He now writes in his garden shed and in his spare time supports Hull City AFC.

Radmila May was born in the US but has lived in the UK ever since apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and has been working for them off and on ever since. For the last few years she was one of three editors working on a new edition of a practitioners' text b

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