German fiction

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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

14358496

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

 

You – Zoran Drvenkar

Published February 28, 2017 by bibliobeth

19288100

What’s it all about?:

The chilling new thriller by the author of SORRY

Take a man who travels through Germany and shows no mercy. Wherever he goes, no one is left alive. Call him The Traveller. Make him a legend. Fear him.

Take five girlfriends. They open the door to Chaos. Then they take flight. They’re in way over their heads. Avoid them.

Take a father, haunted by his past, who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal. Now imagine his new goal is to stop the five young women. At any cost. Call him The Logician. Shun him.

As they move towards one another, they are seeking vengeance. They have no idea they are watching one person.

What did I think?:

I read this book on a beautiful, sunny holiday with my sister, Chrissi Reads and in hindsight, this novel was quite the contrast to the setting I was in! It begins in 1995 in a snowstorm in Germany (see what I mean?) with a number of cars stuck on a motorway. Before the snowploughs manage to get to the people trapped, unable to go any further, another man does. He is a serial killer, known ominously as The Traveller and that night he will leave just over twenty people dead as he stalks car to car showing no mercy. Quite a beginning right?

The novel only gets more interesting from there. First of all, it employs a variety of different characters and perspectives but mainly focuses on five sixteen year old girls who are mixed up and way over their heads with gangsters and drug dealing. Secondly, it is written in the second person perspective. This means for every chapter, the reader becomes the character that is being focused on. So, you were walking down the street, you were having dinner… etc. And each chapter and each “you” is a different character, forcing the reader into a different mindset. Make sense? Sounds complicated and it was a bit difficult to get my head round which character I was at any given time although it helps that the title of the chapter tells us which character will be focused on. I absolutely love when novels do things a bit differently and although it took me a while to adjust to that style of writing, I felt more involved in the story as a result and felt I got a larger insight into the minds of each of the characters in turn.

Advance warning before you read this book. It is not one for the squeamish or easily disturbed. It is incredibly dark, uncomfortable and unsettling. I didn’t find the violence particularly gratuitous compared to some other things I’ve read but I know it would probably put many people off. However, if you can get past that and are happy to read a story that you have to put a bit of work in to enjoy, you are in for such a treat. It’s not all about The Traveller – in fact, he’s quite a minor character compared to others in the novel and that was my only criticism. He was such a fascinating (and terrifying) individual that I’d have really liked to learn more of his story. Of course, there’s twists and turns as with any good psychological thriller and the twists in this sit perfectly with the disturbing content that is present throughout the novel. Finally, I’d also like to thank Fiction Fan, one of my favourite bloggers, for her review of this novel as without her bringing it to my attention, I might never have picked it up. I’m now eager to read the author’s other works, especially Sorry, which I’ve also heard great things about!

Would I recommend it?: 

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Snow White Must Die – Nele Neuhaus

Published February 16, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

On a rainy November day police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to a mysterious traffic accident: A woman has fallen from a pedestrian bridge onto a car driving underneath. According to a witness, the woman may have been pushed. The investigation leads Pia and Oliver to a small village, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer.

On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls vanished from the village without a trace. In a trial based only on circumstantial evidence, twenty-year-old Tobias Sartorius, Rita Cramer’s son, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Bodenstein and Kirchhoff discover that Tobias, after serving his sentence, has now returned to his home town. Did the attack on his mother have something to do with his return?

In the village, Pia and Oliver encounter a wall of silence. When another young girl disappears, the events of the past seem to be repeating themselves in a disastrous manner. The investigation turns into a race against time, because for the villagers it is soon clear who the perpetrator is—and this time they are determined to take matters into their own hands.

An atmospheric, character-driven and suspenseful mystery set in a small town that could be anywhere, dealing with issues of gossip, power, and keeping up appearances.

What did I think?:

Nele Neuhaus is a very successful author in Germany, however along with a stand-alone thriller called Swimming With Sharks, this is the first of her books to be translated into English. It also happens to be the fourth in her series starring detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein. I do hate reading series out of order, and a similar thing happened with Jo Nesbo where his novel The Redbreast was the first to be translated into English. However, I decided to put my faith in the Richard and Judy Book Club when it was chosen to be part of their Autumn Reads 2013, and consoled myself with the fact that I probably haven’t missed much. Luckily I was right, this book can easily be read as a stand-alone, but I am eager for the past three books to be translated, to get a bit more information on the characters back stories.

The story focuses on a young man called Tobias Sartorius who was convicted of the brutal double murder of two young girls, his ex-girlfriend Laura and the beautiful Stephanie (aka Snow White). He has served his time and when we meet him, he is returning to the small German village where the atrocities were committed that he has no memory of returning to his family home. Things aren’t easy for him though, he gets home to find his fathers land practically derelict, his mother nowhere to be found and his usually thriving business ruined. While in prison, the local villagers had been treating his father abysmally, blaming the Sartorius family for the actions of the son, and unfortunately their bad behaviour and attitude only gets worse with the return of Tobias. At first, it’s the usual dirty looks, whispered conversations and incriminating graffiti, then it turns slightly more sinister as we realise that someone wants to keep the events of that fateful evening firmly under wraps. Because guess what? Tobias did NOT do it. His only support is Nadia, a childhood friend who has staunchly stuck by him since the beginning, and a young girl called Amelie who he forms an instant connection with and holds an eerie resemblance to Stephanie/Snow White. Then when she goes missing in suspicious circumstances, history seems to be repeating itself all over again.

I was initially drawn to this novel because of the title, and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. I’m quite a big crime/thriller fan as it is, but this almost felt like crime writing on a whole other level! The intricate plot line, twists and turns, and engrossing characters pulled me in and didn’t let me go and I loved how the author paced the “thrilling” moments with some slower character building episodes. This had the effect of making me believe by the time I finished the novel that I was parting with old and beloved friends. Some parts of the plot are fairly complex and convoluted, but this made it all the more interesting as I tried to figure out what exactly was going on. I cannot wait until the first three books of this series are translated into English and then I’m certain I will be devouring them also.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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