Sunday 18 February 2018
DAVID YOUNG - A DARKER STATE (2018)
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?
Praise for the Karin Müller series
'Masterful. . . an intricate, absorbing page-turner' Daily Express
'Superb. A thrilling Cold War mystery that reminded me of Robert Harris at his best' Mason Cross
A Darker State brings a murder mystery set in East Germany at the height of the Cold War. Apart from a bit of espionage in the form of Brian Freemantle's Charlie Muffin, it's not a place I have visited in my fiction reading. After this one, I'll definitely be returning with David Young and Karin Muller and her team.
The murder mystery itself would be interesting enough - a young man's body has washed up on the banks of a river - the bindings on the body ruling out accidental drowning. Factor in the setting - East Berlin - a society where the State has its eyes and ears everywhere in the form of the Stasi and there's another level of intrigue and tension in the narrative.
Muller has been newly promoted and has a new flat to go with her position. She's a Major in the People's Police, an almost single mother of twins with an on-off troubled relationship with their father and a full-time baby minder in the form of her grandmother, who lives with her (and the father of the twins some of the time).
Muller and her team, comprising Tilsner her deputy and a forensic officer, Schmidt start investigating the death. Before too long there's interference and pressure from a couple of Stasi officers. With Muller refusing to give up on the investigation, especially as it may have a connection to Schmidt’s son – a troubled young man who has gone missing; the Stasi pull rank and assume responsibility for the case. Muller’s boss circumvents that by allowing the team to investigate the disappearance of Markus Schmidt.
The narrative dips back and forward in time during 1976 and we get a perspective from our missing lad which helps piece together the puzzle.
I really enjoyed this one. Politics, paranoia and suspicion pervade the narrative. There are references to previous cases (A Darker State is the third book in the series) which intrigued rather than irritated me. Muller negotiates a minefield, where the ire of the State can be brought to bear at any minute with little regard for natural justice. Favours, secrets and influence gets traded before we get answers.
Tense, intelligent and not just a little frightening, A Darker State is a fascinating peep behind the Iron Curtain and the workings of an imperfect state.
David Young has a new fan and the two earlier books in the series have been added to the TBR pile – Stasi Child and Stasi Wolf.
5 from 5
David Young has his website here.
Read in February, 2018
Published – 2018
Page count – 384
Source – review copy from publisher, Bonnier Zaffre
Format - paperback