#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

Find The Stasi Game (Karin Müller #6) on Goodreads

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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 Hell Gate (Ingo Finch Mystery #3) by Jeff Dawson @canelo_co

Hell GateAbout the Book

To solve this case, only an outsider will do… Ingo Finch faces his biggest challenge yet.

New York, 1904. Over a thousand are dead after the sinking of the General Slocum, a pleasure steamer full of German immigrants out for a day on the East River. The community is devastated, broken, in uproar. With a populist senator preying on their grievances, a new political force is unleashed, pushing America to ally with Germany in any coming war.

Nine months later, Ingo Finch arrives in Manhattan, now an official British agent. Tasked with exposing this new movement, he is caught in a deadly game between Whitehall, Washington, Berlin… and the Mob.

Not everything in the Big Apple is as it seems. For Finch, completing the mission is one thing; surviving it quite another…

Format: ebook (255 pages)                      Publisher: Canelo
Publication date: 5th November 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

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My Review

I’ve been a fan of Jeff Dawson’s Ingo Finch series since reading the first book, No Ordinary Killing, in 2017. And I absolutely loved the 2018 follow-up, The Cold North Sea. Although there are brief references to events in the previous two books, Hell Gate can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone. However I’m betting that, having read it, you’ll want to go back to where it all began and find out just why Ingo Finch finds himself at the beck and call of the British secret service.

I recall describing The Cold North Sea as “Buchanesque” and, as regular followers of this blog will know, there is no higher compliment as far as I’m concerned. I’ll happily award the same accolade to Hell Gate. Although there’s a terrific scene on a train that could come straight out of a James Bond movie, the episode in which Finch infiltrates an anarchist group reminded me of the exploits of John Buchan’s hero, Richard Hannay, in Mr. Standfast and a pursuit across open country recalled Hannay’s adventures in the The Thirty-Nine Steps.

Ingo Finch’s latest mission sees him sent to New York, a city that in 1904 is a “growing metropolis in all its living, steaming, cacophonous glory”. I enjoyed seeing him experiencing landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge, and his exploits take him to many well-known parts of the city including Central Park, Broadway, the Meatpacking District and Little Italy. I also loved his wide-eyed reaction to American innovations such as traffic lights and toothpaste you squeeze from a tube. Finch also has his first taste of pizza and hot dogs.

Early on in the book, there are walk-on parts for some famous historical figures such as financier J.P. Morgan, chairman of the White Star Line Bruce Ismay, and Edward Smith, captain of the Baltic (the ocean liner on which Finch travels to America) later to become infamous as the captain of another ship. There’s even a mention of a Trump!

As in the earlier books, there are fascinating nuggets of historical fact around which the author has cleverly wrapped a gripping historical thriller. For instance, I hadn’t appreciated how much of the population of New York at the time was made up of people of German extraction and to what extent this influenced political and economic power within the city. As one character says, “German labour built this city. German labour built the Brooklyn Bridge and the Williamsburg…”.

As Finch reflects at one point, “The United States was a nation forged in blood” and it’s not long before he’s experiencing the reality of this in the melting pot that is New York with its rival gangs and political factions fighting for control. As one insider explain, “All I can tell you is that it’s getting worse – far worse. The Irish, the Italians, the Jews… We got Russian gangs, Chinese gangs, too… We got Black gangs, Hispanic gangs. And now…the Germans.”

In the dedication to The Thirty-Nine Steps, addressed to his friend Tommy Nelson, John Buchan recalls their mutual fondness for ‘that elementary type of tale…which we know as the “shocker” – the romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible’.  It’s an apt description of Hell Gate in which Ingo Finch lurches from one narrow escape to another and is constantly trying to work out – as is the reader – who he can trust. The short answer is pretty much no-one.

The author keeps the pace moving and the tension building as Finch seeks to achieve his mission. As with any good action hero, he gets rather battered and bruised along the way. I’ll admit to having developed a slight crush on Finch making me think it might almost be worth being held captive by a mysterious cult in order to be rescued by him. However, I also suspect I might have some quite formidable rivals for his affections!

If you’re a fan of historical crime thrillers that feature an intrepid hero, are set in interesting locations, that exude the atmosphere of the period and have a plot that cleverly combines fact and fiction, then this is the series for you. I loved Hell Gate and I can’t wait for the next outing for Ingo Finch, not least because he has unfinished business…

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

In three words: Fast-paced, gripping, action-packed

Try something similar: Hudson’s Kill by Paddy Hirsch

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Jeff Dawson CaneloAbout the Author

Jeff Dawson is a journalist and author. He has been a long-standing contributor to The Sunday Times Culture section, writing regular A-list interview-led arts features (interviewees including the likes of Robert De Niro, George Clooney, Dustin Hoffman, Hugh Grant, Angelina Jolie, Jerry Seinfeld and Nicole Kidman). He is also a former US Editor of Empire magazine.

Jeff is the author of three non-fiction books — Tarantino/Quentin Tarantino: The Cinema of Cool, Back Home: England And The 1970 World Cup, which The Times rated “Truly outstanding”, and Dead Reckoning: The Dunedin Star Disaster, nominated for the Mountbatten Maritime Prize.

Historical thriller, No Ordinary Killing (2017) – an Amazon/Kindle bestseller – was Jeff’s debut novel. His follow-up, The Cold North Sea (2018), continued the adventures of Captain Ingo Finch. The third book in the series, Hell Gate (2020), comes out on November 5th.

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