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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dare to Remember and Stasi Wolf

Dare to Remember by Susanna Beard

Lisa Fulbrook moves from the city to a small village where she isolates herself from reminders of her previous life.  She works from home, keeping human contact to a minimum, but gradually manages to open herself to John, her elderly neighbor.  She begins walking his dog Riley and eventually, Riley becomes hers.

John and Riley provide Lisa with her first fragile connections to a fuller life after the savage attack that left her roommate dead and Lisa severely injured and emotionally damaged.  

Flashbacks induce terror, but the loss of memory surrounding the event distresses Lisa as much or more than the flashbacks. Survivor guilt and a subconscious feeling that she was somehow responsible for what happened plague her.  Over the course of a year, Lisa recovers more memories as she begins to confront the past and discover what really happened on the night of the attack.

While an intriguing look at the post-traumatic effects of a violent crime, I think the addition to the title (Dare to Remember: Shocking. Page-Turning. Psychological Thriller) misleading and ultimately harmful.  The novel is psychological in examining Lisa's grief and memory loss, but it is not a thriller.  It is actually fairly slow and there is not a great deal of action.  

If readers expect "page-turning" action, they will be disappointed.  If they are satisfied with examining the way a victim comes to adapt in the aftermath of a brutal crime, they will appreciate the measured pace of Dare to Remember.

Read in December; blog review scheduled for Jan. 28, 2017.

NetGalley/Legend Press

Psychological.  Feb. 1, 2017.  Print length:  288 pages.

Stasi Wolf by David Young is the second in a series set in East Berlin in 1975 and featuring Oberleutnant Karin Muller.  I have not read Stasi Child, the first in the series, but

"Stasi Child has won the 2016 Crime Writers' Association Endeavour Historical Dagger for 2016. This is the most prestigious award for historical crime fiction in the UK.  David was presented with his Dagger award by the Sunday Express and Daily Telegraph crime critic Jake Kerridge at a glittering gala dinner in London. Stasi Child was the unanimous choice of the judging panel."

I've added Stasi Child to my list.  

What is most impressive in this novel is the way the author evokes the cold war era, both visually and emotionally.

For those of you who are as vaguely knowledgeable about East Germany during this period as I am:

The Stasi was the German equivalent of the KGB:  "It has been described as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies to have ever existed.[2][3][4][5][6][7] The Stasi was headquartered in East Berlin..." (source  

The Kripo (or the Kriminalpolizei) was the criminal investigation agency within the police force.

Halle-Neustadt was, at that time, a new communist city, and the GDR was quite proud of it. "An unusual feature was the absence of street names. Instead, all residential blocks were designated with a complex numbering system difficult for outsiders to understand...."  The city was colloquially referred to as HaNeu or HaNoi (there was a large contingent of workers from Vietnam).

David Young skillfully brings the repressive (terrifying) threat of the Stasi organization and the institutional feel of the new city into vivid existence.  I felt as lost as Karin among the vast and towering blocks of prefab construction and as uneasy (terrified) as most citizens must have felt by any connection to the Stasi.

Oberleutnant Karin Muller belongs to the Kripo, but when tasked with investigating the abduction of twin infants, the Kripo is handicapped by Stasi interference.  Karin, who has been sent to Halle-Neustadt to take charge of the investigation, finds the local Kripo ham-strung by the Stasi and every suggestion she makes must go through the local Stasi  official and is usually turned down.  Cover-up...but why? 

I can't say I "enjoyed" this novel--I felt claustrophobic during much of it.  And that is just from a few hours of reading.  What must it have been like to live for decades on the wrong side of a divided Germany?  To be spied on at every turn?

Tense and edgy, the novel not only presents an unusual police procedural, but a stressful and disturbing look at life in the GDR in the 1970's.   So...while enjoyment is not the way I would describe the process of reading Stasi Wolf, I feel better informed.  David Young has created a memorable character in Karin Muller and an unforgettable atmosphere of life in a bleak and repressive regime.

Read in December; blog review scheduled for Jan. 28, 2017.  

NetGalley/Bonnier Zaffre

Crime/Police Procedural/Historical.  Feb. 9, 2017.  Print length:  416 pages.


  1. I'm interested in both these titles. I do understand your concern about the first book being labelled a 'thriller'. But 'thriller' is the 'thing' these days. And I'm very intrigued by the 'Stasi' series and, in fact, have already ordered both books. I think a look at what life was like in East Germany sounds fascinating. Thanks for the extra info as well.

    1. They are both interesting books. Life behind the Iron Curtain was pretty scary, and it was interesting to read about Halle-Neustadt--a city that had no street names.

  2. Did you ever see the movie The Lives of Others? It's a German film which shows a fascinating look at the Stasi. Definitely would like to check out this series by Young!

    1. No, I haven't seen that film. Wonder if it is available on Netflix or Amazon. Thanks for the heads up, Iliana!

  3. Some books labels can be either misleading or simply a marketing strategy; I agree with Kay that it seems thriller is the "thing" these days thus this genre is more competitive as compared to others. I'll keep in mind about the different take in 'Dare to Remember' should I want to read it in future.