Blog Tour- David Young- A Darker State

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?

Eyes down and here we go everybody for the next instalment of David Young’s gripping series set in 1970s East Germany, placing us at the heart of Cold War fear and suspicion. Following on from Stasi Child and Stasi Wolf  the book opens with a new home, a seemingly settled family life, and an unexpected promotion for Oberletnant Karin Müller, and yet a creeping feeling of unease as to just what the payback for these rewards will be…

Although I experienced a little dip in my perception of Müller in the previous book, she is back on fine form in this one, despite the pressure she comes under in both her personal and professional life. There’s a good balance between the doubt and self questioning she experiences as a new mother, and in her supposedly solid relationship with her partner Emil, set against her day to day trials and tribulations in a particularly knotty investigation, under the unwavering eye of the sinister Stasi. It is the latter element in her life that really brings her character to life, as she has to out-think and pre-empt the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, sabotage of her investigation, at times putting her in extreme physical danger, but never once denting her sense of morality and focus to get the job done. Reunited with her right hand man, and sometime lover, Werner Tilsner, Young is given the opportunity to not only show the solidity of their professional partnership, but to also insert some moments of lighter, teasing humour into the proceedings. Likewise, Müller’s interactions with slippery Stasi man Jager, whose presence adds another frisson to the investigation, also allows her to show us her steely determination, and her ability to use and manipulate him as much as he does her. Although he does have one particular revelation to foist on her at the close of the book that neither she, nor us, would entirely expect…

As we have come to expect from the two preceding books, Young does not stint on the historical, political and social detail attendant to this period of German history. Not only do we become fully conversant with the ramifications for the individual living in the grip of Communist rule, but also the differences in existence between two halves of the same nation. Interestingly, there are small freedoms that those in the supposedly more totalitarian east experience, and Young also contrasts the feelings of acceptance and pride that some hold, as a juxtaposition to those who feel trapped and surveilled at every turn. The book is absolutely brimming with research, applied in such a way as to not outweigh the natural flow of the plot, but enough to give the reader an inherent feeling of time and place. With a surprising, and unsettling, premise for the murders that occur, Young inveigles us in an underground world of sexual intolerance, and blackmail that is truly disturbing, and one cannot help but feel supremely sorry for the victims of these heinous crimes. I enjoyed the split narrative and timelines, and as the story segued between the two, Young once again showed his knack for pace and tension building. I remember reading somewhere that good authors always write the kind of books that they themselves would like to read , and with Young’s balance of fiction and fact, coupled with a genuinely compelling and exciting plot, I think in this case he has written as a reader and not just a churn-‘ em-out writer that the crime genre is sadly littered with.

Although there is a danger in coming into a series part way through. I think A Darker State actually works extremely well as a stand alone for those late to the party. With a nifty tie up with a certain event in the first book, there is ample opportunity to go back to the beginning before the next book appears. Definitely a series that I have enjoyed, and with an overview of all three books, this has been my favourite to date. Highly recommended and bring on book 4!

(With thanks to Bonnier Zaffre for the ARC)

Catch up with the blog tour at these excellent sites: 

Blog Tour- Nadia Dalbuono- The American- Review

nadiatheamericanA big welcome to you all for Day One of the Nadia Dalbuono Blog Tour to mark the release of her second Italian crime thriller The American,  featuring charismatic detective Leone Scarmarcio.

Having waxed lyrical about Dalbuono’s debut The Few (which also earned a well deserved place in my Top 5 of 2014), I approached The American with an equal sense of excited anticipation and hesitation- could it honestly be the equal of the first one? I can, however, confidently say with its scope, intelligence, and assured writing that it’s even better. What Dalbuono exhibits in this second book is a further growth in her writing and storytelling that is totally mesmerising. Not only does she have the firm foundation of a mercurial, interesting and multi-faceted central detective who owns every scene he inhabits, but there is an intelligence to her plotting and central storyline that keeps the reader hooked throughout.

Scamarcio is still battling with the pull of his Mafia connections, often to the detriment to his career as a police detective, but finds himself entangled in a case with far reaching and dangerous implications to himself, and those closest to him. Driven by a fire within himself, that often necessitates himself to keep control of his base anger, he is a dogged and focussed detective, whose shades of grey are slowly revealed in the course of this investigation. Not averse to a little extra-curricular pick me ups, his mental and physical mettle are sorely tested throughout the book, as he becomes immersed in a case that crosses continents, invoking the ire of both the Vatican and American security services, as he navigates his way through a mass of corruption and conspiracy that would easily defeat lesser men. He is a real lynchpin to the enjoyment of this book, and as the pressure grows the reader cannot help but be firmly in his corner.

The plot is fairly complicated and attention must be paid, and my advice would be that if you want the secret world of the Vatican revealed to you with far more intelligence and steely-eyed intuitiveness than The Da Vinci Code, look no further my friends. The plot segues between time frames and locations with consummate ease, and I learnt many things previously unknown, as to the far reaching tendrils of the Vatican and the power it has exerted across the globe. Dalbuono explores the theory of the ‘strategy of tension’ (the stirring of unrest in underdeveloped countries/powder keg communities to the benefit of powerful governments in other countries) in some detail, and how the perpetrators of this so roundly benefit from their less than honourable actions. With the story pivoting between Europe, the United States and Latin America, there is a tremendous scope and power to the plot, and some reveals that leave a nasty taste in the mouth as to the way that church and state manipulate the masses. It’s powerful, matter of fact and heightens the book to a thriller beyond the normal fare. Dalbuono also carefully suffuses the book with an assured mix of implied and overt violence, so the more cerebral content of the book is tempered by the suddenly shocking interludes of base human instincts, to great effect.

WP_20160105_16_44_29_ProTo be honest, there is little more praise I can heap on this book, and having already installed it as one of my picks for January in the bookstore where I work, I can only urge readers of this blog to seek this one out for yourselves. An early contender for my Top 5 of 2016 too…

Don’t forget to visit The Book Corner  for the next stop on the tour too!