We’ve covered the previous five instalments of David Young’s excellent Karin Müller/Stasi series, and The Stasi Game is, sadly, possibly the last. As in the other novels, Young takes historical events and applies a police procedural to portray ‘socialism with a human face’ as Alexander Dubček might have put it. By this time, the idealism of Müller and the gang has worn extremely thin: the detective protagonist and her nemesis Jäger have fallen from grace, and both are obviously being set up by the Stasi. There is a murder to be investigated, but things are not what they seem and it becomes clear that MI6 are also involved.
Young has spent most of this series picking apart East Germany’s claims to be a people’s paradise. But the DDR didn’t operate in a vacuum, either within Germany’s history, or in its own lifetime. The SED government wasn’t the only one to tell its people half-truths. Does war excuse the British government’s actions in the run up to the bombing of Dresden in 1945? Stasi Game explores how regimes ostensibly at philosophical odds bargain with each other to keep their reputations intact. If they can earn some hard currency at the same time then all the better. Perhaps oddly, the subject matter is so compelling that the police procedural part almost gets in the way.
This is a fine way for the series to bow out, although I have a couple of regrets: first, that my wish for a shoot-out in the Palast der Republik was not to be; second, that we got to read so little about Jäger. Perhaps a spin-off series, Mr Young?
Thanks to Zaffre for the review copy.