Debut Novel

All posts in the Debut Novel category

Talking About The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena with Chrissi Reads

Published May 18, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Fast-paced and addictive, THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR announces a major new talent in thriller writing. You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What was your first impression of this book?

BETH: I was really pleased to see The Couple Next Door on Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club this year, I’d heard a little bit about the book and it falls into a genre that I really like to read so I was excited to get started. It was an incredibly quick read and I surprised myself with how quickly I managed to read it but the story was quite gripping and that urged me to keep on reading instead of putting the book down.

BETH: Anne initially blames Marco for their daughter’s disappearance. Do you agree with her?

CHRISSI: I think Anne and Marco were equally to blame, as Anne agreed to leave the baby. It wasn’t as if Marco forced her to go next door. Anne had her own mind and could’ve said no. She decided to go with Marco to the party, so no… I don’t agree with Anne.

CHRISSI: Which characters, if any, do you sympathise with in this novel?

BETH: This is a really difficult question because, to be honest, I don’t think the whole novel had a hugely likeable character in it for me. That’s not a bad thing at all as I often find myself enjoying books more if there’s an unreliable narrator or a character that is written in such a way that it makes it difficult for you to like them or understand their motivations. This is certainly true of The Couple Next Door. The main couple in the novel leave their baby in the house alone to go to a party next door, taking just the baby monitor with them and taking turns to check on her every so often. At the end of the night, she has disappeared. Obviously this is a terrible thing to happen and I did automatically sympathise with the situation they found themselves in but also found I blamed them a little for what had occurred.

BETH: How do you think Anne’s struggles with post natal depression play into her feelings about the loss of her daughter?

CHRISSI: I think Anne’s struggles with post natal depression really do play into her feelings about the loss of her daughter. Anne is obviously struggling with her mental health and that’s going to affect how she feels about the loss of her daughter. Anne really starts to struggle with her emotions and really question whether she did something wrong, whilst checking on her daughter. I was actually questioning it too. I found Anne’s post natal depression made her a really unreliable narrator.

CHRISSI: Discuss the moral dilemma around the decision to leave the baby in the house next door.

BETH: As I mentioned in the previous novel, Anne and Marco have left their baby behind while attending a party at their next door neighbours and the worst possible case scenario has happened – their daughter has disappeared. It did seem to be more of a dilemma for the mother, Anne to leave her child behind. The host of the party next door Cynthia made it quite clear that her baby was not welcome at the party and Anne’s husband, Marco did a good job of persuading her that everything would be okay. After all, they had the baby monitor and they would keep going back to check on her. Obviously the chances of anything like this happening to your child are very slim but you just need to look at the famous Madeline McCann disappearance to understand that while unlikely, parents shouldn’t even dare take the chance of assuming that “everything will be fine.”

BETH: Did you enjoy the twists and turns in this novel?

CHRISSI: I did. I like a thriller to have twists and turns and The Couple Next Door certainly delivered. I loved the pace of the story and even though I kinda guessed where it was going, it didn’t ruin it for me!

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in its genre?

BETH: I felt it compared very well. I enjoyed the plot, disliking the characters, the slight twists and turns and how everything was wrapped up at the end. It was certainly fast paced and kept me reading and as a mystery and thriller it does what it says on the tin. I loved how everything was slowly revealed and although I’m afraid I kind of guessed where it might be going I still enjoyed the story as a whole.

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I would. I enjoyed the writer’s style and thought it was a gripping read!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

Published May 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Haunting, gripping and gorgeously written, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE by Sarah Schmidt is a re-imagining of the unsolved American true crime case of the Lizzie Borden murders, for fans of BURIAL RITES and MAKING A MURDERER.

‘Eerie and compelling, Sarah Schmidt breathes such life into the terrible, twisted tale of Lizzie Borden and her family, she makes it impossible to look away’ Paula Hawkins

When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden – thirty two years old and still living at home – immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.

Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie’s unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to take care of a problem.

This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.

What did I think?:

First of all, the biggest thank you to the lovely Georgina Moore from Headline and Tinder Press who were kind enough to send me a copy of this astounding debut novel in return for an honest review. To be honest, I’m not sure where to start with this book – I have so much to say and it invoked so many different feelings in me that I’m wary of this review turning into an incoherent gush fest! See What I Have Done is unlike any novel I’ve read before and will probably ever read. The characters, the structure of the plot and especially the stunning writing style all completely blew me away and I still find myself thinking about it days after finishing.

Sarah Schmidt has chosen to focus on a real and rather shocking event that played out in the late nineteenth century involving a young girl called Lizzie Borden who was the main suspect in a double murder of her father and his wife, her stepmother Abby Borden. You may be familiar with the old schoolyard rhyme:

“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

Now in reality, Lizzie was actually acquitted of their murders. Apparently it was thought that the killings were so brutal that no well brought up, middle-class young lady would have been capable of such an act. Sarah Schmidt has chosen to fictionalise Lizzie’s story from a number of perspectives that is, from the point of view of her sister Emma who was not present in the house at the time of the killings, the Irish maid Bridget who at the time had an uneasy relationship with Mrs Borden, a mysterious young man called Benjamin and from Lizzie herself. Each perspective is startlingly honest and intimate and we get a fantastic insight into the strained relationships between different family members, the sadness and frustration of living in a house with difficult and occasionally spiteful parents and the innermost thoughts of a troubled mind.

See What I Have Done is a raw and disturbing read that instantly draws you in with its delicious (yet at the same time disgusting) imagery forged by beautifully descriptive writing and fascinating character studies that have you questioning everybody and everything. It seems like everyone has motive for killing the Borden’s but which one of these individuals had the strength and audacity to wield the axe at the end? As a reader, we’ve got an idea of whom as we draw towards the conclusion but the author will still have you thinking of alternative things that could have happened if others were in the vicinity at the right time. What did I love most about this novel? Apart from the writing style which I could wax on about for days, I enjoyed how she explored the relationship between Lizzie and her older sister Emma which was terribly co-dependent on Lizzie’s part, despite the fact she was supposed to be in her thirties. Her child-like voice, the decisions she made, and the actions she chose added the creep factor to the proceedings and made her an utterly mind-blowing character to read about.

Even the simple act of several characters eating a pear sent shivers down my spine, it was written in such a crystal clear way that played on each one of your senses to the extreme where you could smell the sickness in the house, taste the mutton soup and swallow the pear. If I could sum up my feelings on See What I Have Done (which would be tricky!) I would say: I was nauseated and amazed, disgusted but filled with awe, taken aback but hugely delighted and urge everyone with every fibre of my being to READ THIS BOOK. Sarah Schmidt has a new, ardent fan right here that has “seen what she has done,” loved every minute of it and simply cannot wait to see what she does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – APRIL READ – A Snicker Of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Published May 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Introducing an extraordinary new voice—a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing.

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

What did I think?:

Why have I never heard of this book? When Chrissi and I were researching which books to put on our Kid Lit list for this year, this one appeared which had very positive reviews on GoodReads (4.09 average). Then we got some lovely comments when we did the big reveal of Kid Lit 2017 in January with a few people saying this was one of their favourite children’s books which made us both very excited to read it. Now I’ve finally read it, I can see why. This is a beautiful, magical tale of an ordinary yet very EXTRAordinary young girl that touched my heart with its strong messages about the importance of love, family and friendships.

When we first meet our protagonist, Felicity Pickle she is in the car with her mother, sister and dog, Biscuit travelling to yet another town to start their lives over. Felicity’s mother is described as having a “wandering heart,” and she rarely stays in the same place for too long, feeling an unbelievable urge to move on which is obviously a bit de-stabilising and distressing for the two children at times. However, they are about to return to her mother’s childhood home, Midnight Gulch, a town famous for at one time being a magical, wondrous place until a duel between two magicians and a terrible curse removed most traces of the magic for good.

There has always been something special about Felicity. She sees words in the air around her. This happens when people talk and she sees their innermost thoughts in the form of words and even in objects around her which sometimes suggests the history of a particular place. She writes all the words that are new to her or that she particularly likes down in a little blue book and she has her own talent with words, forming poems for her little sister when she is upset. Joining another new school at Midnight Gulch was always going to be hard for the girls and Felicity especially finds it difficult to form new friendships when there is the risk that she will be removed and taken to another place at any given moment. However, when she meets Jonah, learns more about the history of magic in the town and attempts to lift the dreadful curse, there is a chance she might also be able to cure her mother’s wandering heart and find a home for good.

Oh what a lovely book this is! It’s one of those feel good, warm and fuzzy novels that just makes your heart happy. I just loved the characters, particularly Felicity and Jonah but also the smaller characters on the periphery that added so much to the story. For example, Felicity’s Auntie Cleo, who the family stay with who is just marvellous, adores her sister and the children but has stories all of her own like many of the people in the town. I also really enjoyed how ice cream was so much of the narrative as the town’s biggest business and some of the flavours mentioned made my mouth water – how I wish they were real! This is a fantastic debut from an author that really knows how to write a whimsical, touching tale that gets you hooked, makes you joyful and I enjoyed every minute of it.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT TIME ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT – The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #2)- Rick Riordan

Close To Me – Amanda Reynolds

Published April 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Close To Me is a gripping debut psychological drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty’s bestselling The Husband’s Secret, Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go, and Linda Green’s While My Eyes Were Closed.

She can’t remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia-she’s lost a whole year of memories. A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?

She can’t remember what she did-or what happened the night she fell. But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.

What did I think?:

I got the opportunity to meet the lovely Amanda Reynolds in person at a Headline bloggers evening I went to recently where I also picked up a copy of her debut novel, Close To Me in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much to Wildfire Publishers (an imprint of Headline) for a copy and to Amanda for the wonderful chat we had that evening. Now, if you like your psychological thrillers, Close To Me is a novel you definitely shouldn’t miss out on reading, it’s a fantastic and tense tale that had me gripped right until the end and I became terribly attached to the characters and their lives – the sign of a wonderful author.

The premise initially reminded me of the brilliant Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson i.e. a woman has an accident which results in her suffering amnesia and questioning whole periods of her life that she has missed. It wasn’t long before I realised that although there were slight similarities at the outset of the novel, Close To Me stands by itself quite independently and should not be compared or any potential twists anticipated. Our protagonist, Jo Harding has lost one year of her life after falling down the stairs at home but snatches of events keep coming back to her as she is recovering from her head injury. She begins to realise that certain things are being kept from her by her husband and her two grown up children, but why? What has happened in the past year that has been so terrible that her family are keeping secrets from her in this way? Also, if Jo manages to uncover what has happened in the past year, will that be a good thing or will she wish she had never remembered?

I loved the way this novel was structured. We only hear things from the perspective of Jo but she is such a fascinating character (and somewhat unreliable narrator due to her head injury) that I immediately warmed to her and was rooting for her to get to the bottom of what precipitated her fall down the stairs in the first place. The reader is transported between two time periods, Jo’s present situation and her fight to recover her memories and back to a year ago where one of her last memories is dropping her son off at university. As we, the reader find out things as Jo is finding them out herself it felt very intimate and exciting as a reading experience and I thoroughly enjoyed all the revealing moments, especially close to the end where I quite literally could not put the book down until I had found out EVERYTHING. This is a strong, very memorable psychological thriller and a brilliant debut for the genre. I wish Amanda Reynolds every success for the future and I’ll certainly be reading whatever she writes next.

Interested? Buy Close To Me from Amazon now as an e-book for the absolute bargain price of 99p!:

Paperback release is 27th July, 2017.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Etta And Otto and Russell And James – Emma Hooper

Published March 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. I will try to remember to come back.

Etta’s greatest unfulfilled wish, living in the rolling farmland of Saskatchewan, is to see the sea. And so, at the age of eighty-two she gets up very early one morning, takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 2,000 miles to water.

Meanwhile her husband Otto waits patiently at home, left only with his memories. Their neighbour Russell remembers too, but differently – and he still loves Etta as much as he did more than fifty years ago, before she married Otto.

What did I think?:

There were quite a few things that immediately drew me to Emma Hooper’s debut novel. First of all, the lovely cover with the cheeky little animal on the front (which I now know to be a coyote). Secondly, the title – I mean, four names in a title, what’s that all about? I simply had to find out! Finally, there had been a lot of comparisons of this book to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce which happens to be one of my all time favourite novels. I normally don’t like it when books are compared to others but I loved Harold Fry so much I needed to give Etta & Co a chance to stand as a story on its own merits.

So where this book is similar to Harold Fry is that it involves an adult in their eighties undergoing a long walk to get to a destination, meeting different people and well-wishers along the way. In this novel, our protagonist is Etta, 83 and slowly losing her memory. She wakes up one day and decides to walk to the ocean as she has never seen it, leaving her husband Otto a note explaining this and that she would “try to remember to come back.” The story follows Etta’s journey but is in no way chronological and dips back into the past and present as memories surface for Etta during her journey. We learn about her life as a teacher when she first met Otto. We also learn about Otto’s early life, part of a family fifteen-strong with the addition of his best friend (and current neighbour) Russell who becomes the honorary sixteenth member.

Most of Etta and Otto’s relationship is told in the form of letters, particularly when Otto has to go away to fight in World War II. Russell is Etta’s main support system when Otto is gone, unable to join up himself because of a childhood accident that left him with a lame leg. Russell is also deeply in love with Etta and when he hears about her pilgrimage later in life, immediately sets out to find her. Otto, her husband, stays at home making paper mache animals for Etta’s return and learning to bake from the recipes Etta has left him, deliberately so he can manage without her. Meanwhile on her journey, Etta meets many well-wishers and makes new friends, particularly a wily talking coyote called James who has quite the gift of the gab but encourages Etta through harder times on the road. The ending is somewhat bitter-sweet and very much left open to the readers own interpretation – it’s something I was slightly surprised by but thoroughly enjoyed at the same time.

I guess if you’ve read Harold Fry before you can see the similarities between them but I think this novel deserves to be talked about as a story all of its own. There are many differences between the stories also, particularly the magical realism part with the talking coyote, James, the dementia that Etta is sliding into and the hardships that Etta and Otto have suffered as a couple. I really fell in love with Etta as a character and the pure whimsical nature of this book (yes a talking coyote was always going to be a bonus for me, even if he was just in Etta’s mind?). It was also nice to hear from the spouse left behind, in this case Otto whose little paper mache animals and determination to learn to cook warmed the cockles of my heart. Initially, I was a bit wary of the ending of this novel and I have to admit, slightly disappointed but on closer reflection, I realise it was a perfect way for the reader to make up their own mind as to what happens. I’ll certainly be reading anything else Emma Hooper releases, this is one debut author with a bucket load of talent and beautiful writing to boot.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

 

Guildford Library Talk – David Young, author of Stasi Child and Stasi Wolf, the first two books in the Karin Müller series

Published March 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

David Young was born near Hull and – after dropping out of a Bristol University science degree – studied Humanities at Bristol Polytechnic specialising in Modern History. Temporary jobs cleaning ferry toilets and driving a butcher’s van were followed by a career in journalism with provincial newspapers, a London news agency, and the BBC’s international newsrooms where he led news teams for the World Service radio and World TV.

David was a student on the inaugural Crime Thriller MA at City University – winning the course prize in 2014 for his debut novel Stasi Child – and now writes full-time in his garden shed. In his spare time, he’s a keen supporter of Hull City AFC.

Stasi Child is the first of three books in the Oberleutnant Karin Müller series – set in 1970s communist East Germany – bought by the UK arm of Swedish publisher Bonnier by former Quercus CEO Mark Smith. It reached the top 5 bestsellers on Amazon Kindle, was number one bestseller in Amazon’s Historical Fiction chart, and has been optioned for TV by Euston Films (Minder, The Sweeney etc). Translation rights have so far been sold to France.

DAVID YOUNG TALK AT GUILDFORD LIBRARY

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I was lucky enough to be invited along to an author talk by David Young, an exciting new author who is writing a series of books based in Germany around the time when the Berlin Wall separated Germany into two sides, East and West, communist and capitalist. Faye, who has a blog at A DayDreamer’s Thoughts was responsible for organising the event and she did an absolutely fantastic job! I can’t remember the last time I’ve enjoyed myself so much at an author talk.

David Young was previously a news editor for the BBC and to let off steam from time to time, he played in a band that toured Germany about eight years ago. One of the places that they played, he actually told us was his inspiration for the police headquarters in his novel. It is obvious that David has done meticulous research for his series, despite speaking very little German. He visited Germany and met the people who were detectives in East Germany at that time period and he read many German memoirs (with the help of Google translate!) to try and get a feel for the language and the situation.

David chose to present his talk in a very different way, using a projector with some photographs of Germany taken whilst he was doing his research for the books and some old photographs that illustrated some real life stories of people from that murky period of Germany’s past that inspired and shaped his writing. Unfortunately, some of those photographs are copyright protected so I cannot share them but they were very moving and I loved listening to him talk about the research he has carried out and the little gold nuggets of information that he uncovered along the way.

From the very first picture which was the bleak view from one of the viewing platforms close to the Berlin Wall to a snow-filled cemetery closely afterwards that inspired David to write the horrific scene where a body is discovered in his first book, Stasi Child, the pictures really brought to life the words that David writes in the novel. I had finished Stasi Child earlier that week and sometimes, it’s easy to forget that although the novel is historical fiction, his story is based on real life events. There was division, cruelty, poverty, people desperately trying to escape over the Wall to a “better” life in West Germany, a shady secret police force and reform schools for young people to re-educate them in the “socialist way” that completely beggars belief in today’s free society.

I certainly learnt a lot from David’s talk. One of the most touching moments was when he showed a black and white photograph of a teenage boy who was pictured behaving oddly with a ladder over his back trying to escape to the West. It was in the German papers the next day that he survived thirty-five rounds of gunfire and managed to scale the Wall into the West and escape. Unfortunately he was returned to the East the next day but I couldn’t believe the bravery of the boy and the situation he must have found himself in.

Of course there was such a dark side to East Germany. This was mostly perpetrated by the Stasi special police force who had an unbelievable amount of power and often used psychological methods to unnerve and undermine their victims, including sneaking into their houses and moving things around to deliberately mess with their minds. There was also a lot of paranoia going round (understandably!) and a well known East German leader actually did build a secret escape tunnel to the West just in case his people were to turn against him, similar to an event mentioned in Stasi Child. After the Berlin Wall finally came down, there was still obviously a lot of tension and a recent newspaper report suggested that Ikea, Siemens and Aldi all profited from slave labour during the period of communist East Germany.

David finished the talk by giving us a reading from his latest novel in the series Stasi Wolf and giving us a sneak preview of what it’s going to be about. Here’s the blurb from GoodReads:

How do you solve a murder when you can’t ask any questions? The gripping new thriller from the bestselling author of Stasi Child.

East Germany, 1975. Karin Müller, sidelined from the murder squad in Berlin, jumps at the chance to be sent south to Halle-Neustadt, where a pair of infant twins have gone missing.

But Müller soon finds her problems have followed her. Halle-Neustadt is a new town – the pride of the communist state – and she and her team are forbidden by the Stasi from publicising the disappearances, lest they tarnish the town’s flawless image.

Meanwhile, in the eerily nameless streets and tower blocks, a child snatcher lurks, and the clock is ticking to rescue the twins alive . . .

Actually cannot wait to read this one! David was also kind enough to answer questions from the audience and I asked him how long he envisions this series being. He said that he was hoping to do a book for every year that the Berlin Wall was standing (which he estimates is about fifteen years) which sounds absolutely fantastic and I’ll definitely be investing in the series. They should all involve recurring characters, especially Oberleutnant Karin Müller, but he stated that each book would be a separate case, could be read as a stand alone and that there were so many relevant stories that he could tell so he had no worry of running out of things to say which was reassuring and exciting to hear.

Finally it was time for two treats. First of all, David took us down to see his German police car from that period, blue lights and all. Loved the bit of promotion along the side David!

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On returning to the library, we then participated in a hugely fun taste test with two different chocolate spreads. One was manufactured in East Germany, one in West Germany but they were simply labelled A and B and the goal was to pick which one was which.

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I was happy (but a bit surprised) that I picked the right one and he told us a very interesting fact that the “communist” chocolate spread might taste a bit nuttier as hazelnuts were very easy to come by for East Germany in those days – fascinating! Finally, some staff from Waterstones were available at the library so you could buy either Stasi Child or Stasi Wolf and I made sure to pick myself up a copy of the latter which he was kind enough to sign.

I just want to thank Guildford Library, Faye and David Young so much for a fantastic, informative talk that I thoroughly enjoyed. You’ve definitely got yourself another fan here David and I can’t wait to pick up Stasi Wolf a bit later this month – watch out for my review coming soon.

Visit David’s website: http://stasichild.blogspot.ca/p/about_27.html

David’s GoodReads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14358496.David_Young

Follow him on Twitter: @djy_writer

Stasi Child and Stasi Wolf are available from all good bookshops and as e-books now!

 

Stasi Child (Karin Müller #1) – David Young

Published March 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

East Berlin, 1975

When Oberleutnant Karin Müller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body at the foot of the wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But when she arrives she realises this is a death like no other: the girl was trying to escape – but from the West.

Müller is a member of the national police, but the case has Stasi written all over it. Karin is tasked with uncovering the identity of the girl, but her Stasi handlers assure her that the perpetrators are from the West ­- and strongly discourage her asking questions.

The evidence doesn’t add up, and Muller soon realises the crime scene has been staged. But this is not a regime that tolerates a curious mind, and Muller doesn’t realise that the trail she’s following will lead her dangerously close to home . . .

Stasi Child is David Young’s brilliant and page-turning debut novel.

What did I think?:

This exciting debut novel from David Young ticks so many boxes for me before I even started it! Historical fiction, crime, mystery, thriller, Germany during the horrific period when it was divided into East and West Germany by means of the Berlin Wall – so many things that compelled me to pick this book up and, best of all, it was a highly entertaining and well written novel in the start of what I’m sure will be a very successful series for the author. I actually lived in Germany for a period of about thirteen years off and on when my father was there in the British Forces and my mother was in Berlin that night when the Berlin Wall was finally torn down so I have a special interest in this difficult time period of Germany’s history and we have a piece of the infamous Wall in my mother’s cabinet to prove it!

The story follows Karin Müller, an Oberleutnant (the highest lieutenant officer rank in the German armed forces) in the national police force in East Germany who is called to a case of a body near to the East side of the Wall. The Stasi secret police for East Germany have taken over the investigation and Karin is ordered to keep her findings top secret. Moreover, she must only be involved in finding out the identity of the dead young girl, most definitely not the perpetrator or be worried about bringing him/her to justice. Karin finds a lot of things that don’t tally up at the crime scene and point to links elsewhere in Germany including a hideous reform school for young people that houses many dark secrets. Karin must be incredibly careful and clever in how she proceeds with her investigation as the danger to her personally becomes greater and greater.

I was lucky enough to go and watch the author, David Young, speak about Stasi Child and his new novel in the series, Stasi Wolf at Guildford Library recently (more on that in tomorrow’s post!). It was obvious that although he is a British author and didn’t speak very much German, he has carried out some meticulous research and has really captured the atmosphere, fear and horror of a country divided by two completely different ideals – communism and capitalism. It’s a fast-paced, exciting read that blends the world of crime and subterfuge with historical events perfectly and not only did I enjoy the thrilling plot but I also loved the characters that the author created. He got the woman’s voice spot on which was lovely to read from a male author and I really enjoyed the characters of the children from the reform school that are integral to the proceedings. This is a series I’ll definitely be following and eagerly anticipating and I look forward to reading the second book, Stasi Wolf very soon!

Look out for my post tomorrow where I’ll be focusing on the fabulous David Young talk at Guildford Library.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0