Thursday, 30th March 2017
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Author: David Young Price 8.99 Euro

by Marco Vichi Translated by Stephen Sartarelli Published by Hodder & Stoughton Price €25

The first novel in this series, published just a couple of years ago, won the Crime Writer's Association's award for Best Historical novel.

Now the follow-up, Stasi Wolf, is on the shelves continuing the story of Karin Muller, a detective in the East German police. What made the first novel such a success was the time period, the 1970's, that the book was set in, where it was set as well as the sheer lack of understanding that most people here in the West had/have for what went on there. What we do know is that the Stasi, the secret police, were everywhere and controlled practically every section of East German life. Their reach was enormous and if you got on the wrong side of them then your life was effectively over. They also had huge numbers of informers working for them so they knew everything that was going on, there was nowhere to hide. It is only when the Berlin Wall came down and people had access to their files did it become clear just how pervasive their influence was. At the beginning of this novel Karin Muller is working a dead end beat due to getting on the wrong side of the authorities. However soon enough she is being called in by her bosses and told she is being sent to work a case in a new town two hours south of Berlin. The case involves the disappearance of twins from a maternity hospital and that because of the sensitivities of the case there are limitations on what can be done with it. The authorities do not want the new town, necessary for it's chemical industries, to get a bad reputation in the country so the police will not be able to advertise the kidnapping. Karin is used to having such restrictions put on her but it does grate nevertheless. She goes to the new town, so new that it is piloting the concept of no street names, just numbers, and finds out that the body of one of the children has been found. Nothing really much happens in the first half of the book, it mainly sets out the plot from different perspectives, including the kidnappers. However in the second half of the novel things heat up with the second twin being returned and other children being kidnapped. It seems that in this book coincidence and luck play an awfully large role and also if the reader is given a strange piece of information then you know for sure that it will pop up and be hugely important later on. That is all just a polite way of saying that the book is a bit of a hot mess. The scenarios are just too implausible and the writer doesn't seem to be able to rein himself in. There was an element of that in the first novel but here it is just so much more obvious, making for a much weaker book all round.

Even the title of the novel, Stasi Wolf, while it does make some sense, is yet again in the overall context of the book implausible.

This book won't be winning many awards.


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