‘Stasi Child’ is David Young’s brilliant debut novel, set in East Berlin in the mid 1970’s when the Stasi (the secret police) overshadowed the lives of the citizens.
Oberleutnant Karin Müller and her partner Unterleutnant Werner Tilsner of the criminal police (KRIPO) are called to investigate the mutilated body of a girl in a cemetery near the wall marking the border to the west. It is reported that the girl was shot in the back while trying to escape from West to East. It looks like a job for the Stasi, but senior Stasi officer Klaus Jäger has specifically asked for Karin, the first woman in East Germany to head a murder unit, to investigate. It doesn’t take long for Karin and Werner to find discrepancies between the reports and the evidence. But both realise that speaking out would be dangerous.
Karin is in her 20s, married but childless. Her husband has been in trouble for actions not considered to be in the best interest of the state. Their marriage is rocky and Karin finds herself falling for the dashing Tilsner.
The two detectives follow the clues and are also drip fed information and travel passes by Jäger. The clues lead them to a reform school in Rugen and when another body is found, the Harz Mountains in the North West of Germany. But throughout the investigation Karin doesn’t know who she can trust. She certainly doesn’t trust Jäger and she even has suspicions about Tilsner.
There is a parallel story told by Irma Behrendt, a teenager at a reformatory who wants to escape the terrible harsh conditions with her best friend Beate.
Eventually the two stories tie together along with reminders from Karin’s traumatic past. But is it worth continuing the investigation at the risk of incurring the wrath of the Stasi?
This was a brilliant debut novel and I had trouble putting it down. I was frustrated with the darkness in which the people lived but I loved the characters in the story. Some of the events of the story were very upsetting.
This is the first novel of a planned series so I’m looking forward to meeting Karin Müller again in the not too distant future. Next in series is ‘Stasi Wolf’.
Book Published 2015