Set in the grim times of the Stasi secret police in East Germany, before the Wall came down and changed the face of Europe, this novel is the fourth in a series that began with Stasi Child. It can be read as a standalone novel, but there are quite a few references to previous events and traumas that serve to make the reader curious enough to want to fill in the backstory. In short, a series worth starting from the beginning.
One element of the novel is the basic detective story: mysterious deaths, possible serial killer, men tied up and left to die in fire and smoke. This is interspersed with another story of French POWs linking back to WW2, which explains the motive and reveals the killer behind these deaths. This is a truly horrific event based on real-life events, and the reader can only shudder in horror at man’s inhumanity to man.
Another level of the story is the difficulty of investigating and bringing the truth to the surface in a society that is dedicated in many ways to hiding the truth and keeping secrets. Power gives authority the opportunity to silence voices they do not wish to hear. Trying to operate in a world where power can be used in mysterious, unethical and frightening ways to ensure the guilty survive and prosper is shown to be extremely frustrating, to say the least. Tense and gripping, this interesting portrait of a time in living memory will keep the reader entertained and glad all over again that this regime was dismantled like the Wall that symbolised it.