Stasi 77 by David Young
Currently Reading ~ Review To Follow Soon
A secret State. A dark conspiracy. A terrible crime.
Karin Müller of the German Democratic Republic’s People’s Police is called to a factory in the east of the country. A man has been murdered – bound and trapped as a fire burned nearby, slowly suffocating him. But who is he? Why was he targeted? Could his murderer simply be someone with a grudge against the factory’s nationalisation, as Müller’s Stasi colleagues insist? Why too is her deputy Werner Tilsner behaving so strangely?
As more victims surface, it becomes clear that there is a cold-blooded killer out there taking their revenge. Soon Müller begins to realise that in order to solve these terrible crimes, she will need to delve into the region’s dark past. But are the Stasi really working with her on this case? Or against her?
For those who really run this Republic have secrets they would rather remain uncovered. And they will stop at nothing to keep them that way . . .
A gripping and evocative crime thriller, moving between the devastating closing weeks of the Second World War and the Stasi-controlled 1970s, STASI 77 is David Young’s most compelling and powerful novel yet.
His heart started pounding, and his throat constricting, even before he reached the crossing point.
C for Charlie.
A place where the glitz and decadence of West Berlin gave way to the colourless grey of the East. The contrast was always striking, no matter how often he crossed the border.
He’d done this journey countless times for work. Always driving – through France, Belgium, West Germany. And then the motorway corridor into West Berlin.
Each business trip was ostensibly about making money, making connections. Doing deals with the Deutsche Demo- kratische Republik, with its voracious appetite for foreign hard currency.
But his real reason for these trips was something quite different.
It was to investigate.
To collect information. To identify people. And now he knew enough. Now he was ready to begin.
As the guard checked his papers, a deep wracking cough started, and he couldn’t stop it. His body convulsed like a beached fish. The guard stared hard at him.
It was all going to go wrong now, he sensed it. He managed to control the cough – a permanent legacy of a day he wished he could forget, the day that this was all about – but beads of sweat formed on his brow, and his breathing was laboured and panicked. He climbed out of the Citroén, obeying the guard’s gestures and shouts.
The guard circled the vehicle, opened its gently sloping hatched back, and pulled out the businessman’s leather workbag.
‘Open it, please.’
He flipped the catch. There was nothing in the bag that didn’t match the stated purpose of his visit: all was as it should be, except for the one thing he wanted to be found. But the busi- nessman still felt his face begin to colour up, to feel the guilt, even though he was guilty of nothing. The tension felt like it was intensifying in every sinew in his body, each second causing another twist to course through him.
The guard pulled out a plastic bottle of colourless liquid. He unscrewed the top, and immediately pulled his head back as he smelt the fumes, almost as though he’d been given a small electric shock.
“What’s this?’ he asked, grimacing.
The businessman didn’t trust his voice to answer, and instead opened his papers, lightly running his finger over the entry which corresponded to the one litre of fire accelerant – approved for temporary import into the Republic as part of his business. The business of fire prevention. The Republic was developing fire resistant materials as an offshoot of its chemi- cals industry. His job was to test them so that they matched the standards of the West before sealing any import-export deal. In effect, he needed to be a fire-starter, in order to be an effective fire-preventer. It was a career he’d chosen for a reason. Part of that reason was this visit to East Germany via its capital, even though his destination lay hundreds of kilometres back towards the West. It was a circuitous route, designed to deflect attention. He didn’t want some twitchy East German border guard ruin- ing his plan.
‘The guard glanced over to his guardhouse, as though he was about to summon a superior. But then his attention turned back to the leather bag. He rummaged around again, and pulled out the multi pack of Gauloises cigarettes the businessman had deliberately left there – he knew it flouted customs regulations.
Waving the cigarette packets in one hand, and the bottle of liquid in the other, the guard shook his head, a theatrically severe look on his face. It was a young face, an inexperienced face —- even though the businessman knew most of these officers in border guard uniforms were actually agents of the Ministry for State Security.
“These don’t mix well together; said the guard. “You might have permission for this…’ He waved the bottle around again with one hand. Then the cigarettes with the other, as though he was making secret semaphore signals to his colleagues. “But importing these…’
Tm sorry. I must have forgotten to take them out, said the businessman. He tried to give a calm, unflustered outward appearance. Inside he was churning up. He needed the guard to want to confiscate the cigarettes, and relish the thought of quietly smoking them, or sharing them with his fellow officers.
The guard’s semaphore-like waving paused mid-air. ‘This interaction had reached a critical point. The businessman held his breath – his heart tapping a steady drum beat. The guard placed both objects on top of the Citroén’s roof, then glanced at his watch. He shrugged, picked up the bottle and placed it back in the bag, along with the man’s passport and documents. ‘Then he waved the businessman back into the driver’s side, and picked up the cigarette multi pack.
If he knew the businessman had left them there deliberately – that it was an unofficial ‘trade’ – it didn’t show in his deadpan face. “We will be impounding these; he said. ‘Importing them is illegal. Do not do it again.’
He waved the Citroén past, while shouting through the open driver’s window.
‘Enjoy your stay in our Socialist Republic, Herr Verbier.’
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