#BookReview The Stasi Game (Karin Müller #6) by David Young @ZaffreBooks

About the Book The Stasi Game

A man’s body is found buried in concrete at a building site in the new town district. When People’s Police homicide captain Karin Müller arrives at the scene, she discovers that all of the body’s identifiable features have been removed – including its fingertips.

The deeper Müller digs, the more the Stasi begin to hamper her investigations. She soon realises that this crime is just one part of a clandestine battle between two secret services – the Stasi of East Germany and Britain’s MI6 – to control the truth behind one of the deadliest events of World War II.

Format: ebook (281 pages) Publisher: Zaffre
Publication date: 12th November 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Thriller

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My Review

I discovered David Young’s ‘Stasi’ series back in February when I read Stasi Winter, the fifth book featuring Karin Müller of the East German People’s Police. I enjoyed it so much that I made a plan – unfortunately as yet unfulfilled – to go back and read the earlier books ready for the next book in the series. Imagine my dismay therefore to read that The Stasi Game may be the last book in the series. Luckily for those of us who’ve not yet read the whole series, The Stasi Game has been designed as a standalone although there are brief references to events in previous books.

Opening in 1982 and set largely in Dresden, The Stasi Game begins with a dramatic prologue and then transports the reader back to events in the months leading up to it. There are occasional forays further back in time, to the period of the Second World War and a friendship between two young people the full relevance of which will only gradually be revealed. Central to these sections of the book is the still controversial firebombing of Dresden by the Allies in February 1945 which killed thousands and destroyed much of the city. The vivid first-hand account of the raids is one of the standout parts of the book.

From the very start of their investigation into the death of the man they refer to as ‘Concrete Man’, Karin Müller and her team find themselves playing a cat and mouse game with the Ministry of State Security, better known as the Stasi. No prizes for guessing which is the cat and which the mouse. In addition, Müller finds herself coming face to face with an old adversary and begins to wonder if, in fact, she has been set up to fail from the beginning.

As the case progresses, amongst all the twists and turns, some very dirty wartime secrets – as well as more recent ones – are unearthed. The book’s final climatic scenes continue where the prologue left off, leaving the reader to wonder what the future holds for Müller and her colleagues. If this is indeed the end of the series, then The Stasi Game is a lesson in how to go out on a high and leave the reader wanting more.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Zaffre via NetGalley.

In three words: Gripping, compelling, assured

Try something similar: Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements

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David YoungAbout the Author

David Young was born near Hull and, after dropping out of a Bristol University science degree, studied Humanities at Bristol Polytechnic. Temporary jobs cleaning ferry toilets and driving a butcher’s van were followed by a career in journalism on provincial newspapers, a London news agency, and international radio and TV newsrooms. He now divides his time between Twickenham and a writing base on Syros in Greece, and in his spare time supports Hull City AFC. (Photo bio/ credit: author website)

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#BookReview The Forgers by Bradford Morrow

The ForgersAbout the Book

The rare book world is stunned when a reclusive collector, Adam Diehl, is found on the floor of his Montauk home: hands severed, surrounded by valuable inscribed books and original manuscripts that have been vandalised beyond repair.

Adam’s sister, Meghan, and her lover, Will – a convicted if unrepentant literary forger – struggle to come to terms with the seemingly incomprehensible murder.

But when Will begins receiving threatening handwritten letters, seemingly penned by long-dead authors, but really from someone who knows secrets about Adam’s death and Will’s past, he understands his own life is also on the line – and attempts to forge a new beginning for himself and Meg.

In The Forgers, Bradford Morrow reveals the passion that drives collectors to the razor-sharp edge of morality, brilliantly confronting the hubris and mortal danger of rewriting history with a fraudulent pen.

Format: Paperback (256 pages)                          Publisher: Grove Press UK
Publication date: 5th November 2020 [2014] Genre: Crime, Mystery

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My Review

Previously published in the US in 2014, The Forgers is set in the slightly obsessive world of antiquarian book collectors and dealers who, according to the book’s narrator, share “little else than a rabid passion for the printed page”. But not just any old printed page; we’re talking rare first editions, unpublished manuscripts, private letters and volumes inscribed by the author.

The narrator, Will (although he is rarely referred to by name), is a self-confessed forger.  As he declares, “I myself was once a forger.  Undeniably, and even unashamedly, triumphantly a forger.” He has a high opinion of his own ability, considering the forged inscriptions he adds to books to be ‘improvements’ and works of art in their own right.  Reflecting on one of his creations, he says, “A forgery of this high quality is, to my mind, as informed by genius as any of your everyday authentic originals.  It’s just that the creativity involved is of an altogether different variety.”

Given the above, the reader may well consider his testimony suspect from the outset. Will’s one redeeming feature is his devotion to Meghan, the sister of the murdered man, for whose sake he has undertaken to leave his nefarious past behind.

These worthy intentions are disrupted by the arrival of accusatory letters from a man whom Will comes to think of as his ‘epistolary nemesis’, rather in the manner of Sherlock Holmes’ arch-enemy Moriarty. An apt comparison, since Will is an expert on the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle. After all, he’s forged enough of them.

The author creates an air of increasing unease and tension as Will tries to discover the identity of his mystery correspondent and becomes increasingly paranoid about the threat he poses. There is also some playful humour.  Reflecting on his progress at learning to operate a printing press, Will reports, “To say I took to it like a duck to water would be to employ a cliché – a lame duck of a cliché, at that.”

The book includes misdirection and red herrings in the manner of Agatha Christie and, although it started off promisingly, I have to say it rather fizzled out and I was left with a sense of anti-climax as I turned the final pages. The Forgers is an entertaining read and interesting as a portrait of the darker side of the antiquarian book world but not the completely satisfying mystery I’d hoped for.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Grove Press and Readers First.

In three words: Clever, playful, humorous

Try something similar: The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

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Bradford MorrowAbout the Author

Bradford Morrow is the author of eight previous novels, including The Forgers and The Prague Sonata. He is the founding editor of Conjunctions. A professor of literature and Bard Center Fellow at Bard College, he lives in New York City. (Photo credit: Goodreads author profile)

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