Review: Stasi Child, by David Young

I’m probably wrong about this, but I think the trend of writing police procedurals set in totalitarian societies started with Martin Cruz Smith, whose Gorky Park was published back in 1981. Since then there have been many others, notably Philip Kerr’s ‘Bernie Gunther’ series, set mostly in Nazi Germany — and now with 14 books and still going strong. David Young’s series featuring Oberleutnant Karin Müller is set in East Berlin during the Cold War. This, the first of six novels in the series, takes place in 1975 and starts with the appearance of a dead body next to the Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier (what we would call the Berlin Wall). The body belongs to a young woman who appears, at first glance, to have been shot by West German border guards as he tried to cross into the East. But of course nothing is as it seems. It’s a long and complex story, genuinely disturbing at points, but I can’t decide yet if I want to continue with the series. Young works very hard to convince us of the reality of life in the German Democratic Republic, including an attempt to get into the head of a loyal police officer who understand that while the Stalinist regime is not perfect, it’s a more just and fair society than what she believes exists in the west. I finished the book unsure about how convincing it all was and whether I care enough about Oberleutnant Müller to spend more time in her company.