A Darker State by David Young

Happy publication day to David Young for A Darker State! This is the third in the Karin Müller series. I’d like to thank Bonnier Zaffre for sending me a review copy to read. It’s an apt week for this book to be published. I saw a tweet on Twitter last weekend that said the Berlin wall had stood for 10316 days and that on Monday 5th February 2018, it had been 10316 days since it had gone. Apt indeed.

 

The blurb

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?

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My review

I have to apologise to David Young. I read both Stasi Child and Stasi Wolf last year and I didn’t get the chance to review them. They’re fantastic books and are the first two novels in the Karen Müller series, set in East Germany in the 1970s. Karen is an officer with the People’s Police. In Stasi Child she investigates the murder of a teenage girl, and in Stasi Wolf, babies are going missing.

A Darker State finds Karen with a young family and newly promoted. She’s enjoying motherhood to a certain extent but the lure of promotion and with it, a bigger apartment, is enough to entice her back to the job. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot as it would be all too easy to give away a spoiler.

When I read Stasi Child last year, I was at CrimeFest in Bristol. I was staying in a budget hotel while the festival was taking place at the Marriott. The analogy wasn’t lost on me. My hotel was akin to East Germany. It was clean and basic but had everything I needed. In contrast, the Marriott (like West Germany and West Berlin) had everything I wanted. The Communist mantra of ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need’ echoes throughout David Young’s writing as he seeks to explain Karen and the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR). As much as Karin dislikes the Stasi, she’s still proud of her country and what’s been achieved – full employment, more equality for women and homes for everyone. With each book though, Karin suspicions are growing and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for her to find people she can trust. Whichever way she turns, the menace of the Stasi is always prevalent.

It’s obvious that David Young has done huge amounts of research for his novels. Each one is based on factual elements that are woven into the storyline. It’s often Russia or the USSR that’s the focus for Communist crime stories, so it’s refreshing to see a new take on this by exploring East Germany. The Cold War, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall or the Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier as it was known in the DDR, and then the reunification of Germany is all very recent history for me. So when you read a Karin Müller novel, you don’t just get a cracking storyline with interesting and complex characters, you also get a fascinating history lesson.

Although A Darker State can be read on its own, I personally think it’s better to read the books in order. Just as there are factual elements in the stories, there are personal threads about Karin that run through them, adding to the intricacies of the plot. This latest instalment has twisted those intricacies more and for me, is the best novel of the series so far. There are rumours though that book 4 is even better. I can’t wait.

For more about David and to buy his books, then click here.

 

The author

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David Young was a journalist for more than 25 years with the BBC World radio and TV. Now a full-time author, his debut novel Stasi Child, reached the Top 20 of the Bookseller’s Fiction chart and was a top five e-book bestseller. The novel won the 2016 CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger and was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award.

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