Stasi Winter by David Young Zaffre January 9th 2020
IN EAST GERMANY, 1978, NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS.
The state’s power is absolute, history is re-written, and the ‘truth’ is whatever the Stasi say it is.
So when the murder of a woman is officially labelled an ‘accidental death’, Major Karen Müller of the People’s Police is faced with a dilemma.
To solve the crime, she must defy the official version of events. But defy the Stasi means putting her own life – and the lives of her young family – in danger.
As the worst winter in history holds Germany in its freeze, Müller must untangle a web of state secrets and make a choice: between the truth and a lie, justice and injustice, and, ultimately, life and death.
Stasi Winter was a novel with a winter like no other, it was cold, in fact it was Arctic. Young’s brilliant descriptions of an East Germany swathed in an arctic chill, its sea frozen solid had you shivering as you read.
It formed such a wonderful backdrop to his story, as the elements conspired against his characters, and added an extra dimension to what was already a drama filled novel.
The characters, detectives Muller and Tilsner were new to me, as I was typically late to Young’s Stasi series, yet it didn’t make a difference. Hints of their backstory were littered throughout and I soon had a good idea of what made them tick.
Muller, the leader was quite fearless for a woman in such a controlled state as East Germany. You felt she had to be twice as good as the men around her to have got to the high rank of Major, yet she lost none of her femininity, motherhood always a priority, the force which pushed her and her commitment to the powers that be to safeguard her family.
But what of those not in authority, what about Young’s main protagonist Irma, pulled into the escape plans of her new love Dieter and his friends? Quite a mixed up young woman, again with a history in previous novels, but not something that hindered the reader.
I loved the way Young used her to question how far we would go for love, or was it infatuation that drove Irma to take such risks. The more she was drawn in, the more you sensed her regret, her trepidation and I admired her questioning nature, her sense of loyalty and willingness to try and do what was right. Young made you believe in this young woman, made you want her to have a happy ending and a life of freedom.
What you could not get away from was the tension that Young created, the fear that your every move was being watched, every conversation listened into. The constant fear that at any moment you could be dragged off to reform school to relearn the ways of the East German state. It gave the novel a claustrophobic feel, its characters forever on edge, never able to relax.
The notorious Stasi Police showed an organisation who would sacrifice anyone to save face and indeed protect their country as Young highlighted the power struggle between them and Muller.
In essence Stasi Winter was cold, chilling and brutal, it’s characters thrown to the mercy of the elements in a battle against crime and the east and the west. I loved it and shall be making sure I read the other novels in the series as well as hoping a new novel will not be long before it appears.
I would like to thank Zaffre for a copy of Stasi Winter by David Young to read and review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
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. You can follow him on Twitter @djy_writer. Join David Young’s Readers’ Club for all the latest news from David on his books, events and giveaways: http://www.bit.ly/DavidYoungClub