The River Runs Red by Ally Rose #BookReview #BlogTour

Berlin is in the midst of its worst winter in decades.

Against the backdrop of freezing temperatures, blizzards and snowstorms, the city refuses to grind to a halt. Lurking within the shadows is a Stasi victim, out for revenge against the former East German informants known as ‘The Ears’. Their dark secrets are about to be exposed.

A mix of ice and water and a single gunshot provides the ultimate payback.

With the Millennium approaching, Hanne Drais, the criminal psychologist working within the Berlin Mitte Police team led by the irascible Oskar Kruger and his laid-back sidekick, Stefan Glockner, are seeking the perpetrator of these violent crimes.

Who is the man they’ve nicknamed Snowflake?

Who is turning the river red?

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for The River Runs Red by Ally Rose today. Many thanks to the author, Fahrenheit Press and Emma Welton from damppebbles blog tours for inviting me and for my digital copy of the novel.

There's something so fascinating about novels set during the Cold War, with the dark secrets and iniquitous acts of those days still casting their long shadow decades later. The River Runs Red opens in December 1999 with the murder of a former East German Sports Minister and coming soon after the killing of two other former Stasi informants, it would appear that somebody is out for revenge.  While much of the storyline concerns the investigation into the identity of the murderer, the sub-plot is set back in the previous decade, just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Rudy Meixner is an athlete; a rower with hopes of representing the DDR in the Olympics, following in the footsteps of his father, Jasper. Athletes in East Germany had a more privileged life than most of the population but compulsory blanket steroid use was ordered by the State regardless of the illegality and any long-term health implications and it's clear that though they may experience some benefits, they are still living under the oppression of a totalitarian regime.
Jasper's defection to the West results in his sons, Rudy and Wim being placed under higher Stasi surveillance and at a time when many East German citizens were potentially informants, nobody really knows who can be trusted and suspicion is rife. Both brothers make the decision to attempt to escape but when Wim is caught, they are taken to the notorious Hohensch√∂nhausen prison and it is here that the reader fully begins to understand the fear that East Germans lived under and the lengths the State would go to in order to prevent defections. Torture by sleep deprivation is used on both brothers with the aim of eliciting desperate confessions during their interrogations. The malevolence displayed by the Stasi officers is almost palpable here but becomes even more horrific when the brothers anger their captors they are both ordered to the U-Boat, a euphemism for the water cells which were filled with icy water up to the prisoners' necks. This nightmarish scenario is chillingly described and though the act itself is undoubtedly shocking, perhaps what is even more disturbing is the detached air of the Stasi officers, who watch events unfold without displaying any emotions. It's little wonder then that although Rudy manages to escape, he is left deeply scarred by his experiences and like many victims, he has his reasons why he would want to kill former Stasi informers. Ally Rose plays a clever game of cat and mouse with readers, suggesting that Rudy is indeed the murderer before casting doubt and then adding another little nugget of suspicion.
This is actually the third book featuring criminal psychologist, Hanne Drais but the first I have read and I immediately liked her and the rapport between the team trying to identify the killer. The little glimpses into her family life show her to be a woman who is happy with her circumstances and I must say what a pleasure it was to read a book where the woman character is respected by her colleagues and has a settled home life too. She is in a relationship with another woman, Claudia and has a young daughter but remains on good terms with Audrey's father. It's interesting to see how she is torn by this investigation, both by some of the unusual methods employed to try to discover the truth and by her feelings as to the morality of the murders. She naturally supports the underdog but realises that it is the police's job to prevent crime even if the victims are guilty of their own evil deeds.
The River Runs Red perhaps challenged my feelings more than any other crime book I've read. I respected the need for the police to stop the killer and thought the team of Hanne Drais, Oskar Kruger and Stefan Glockner were officers I would be rooting for in most police procedurals. However, the years of despicable actions by the Stasi on their own citizens and the grip of fear they held the population in meant I also had deep sympathy for the perpetrator. So many families were ripped apart by their cold-blooded regime and it's understandable that some would seek revenge for their crimes. I was left in the strange position of wanting the killer's identity to be exposed while also hoping that they would somehow evade punishment. I found the book a little slow-burning at first and preferred the darker parts of the story to the romantic scenes between Rudy and Gabi but this is an engrossing and increasingly tense read. The moral questions and the lingering doubt that the full truth is never fully told means that this is a novel which kept me thinking after I finished it. In The River Runs Red Ally Rose has vividly captured the sense of time and place in both East Germany and the still relatively unified country and has written a thought-provoking, compelling book which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The River Runs Red is published by Fahrenheit Press and can be purchased from;
Fahrenheit Press online bookstore
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Don't forget to check out the other blogs taking part in the tour, details are below.

About the Author
Ally Rose writes –

"I've always been interested in writing crime stories and with the Cold War era, there is such a rich tapestry to draw from; especially the notorious and quelling Stasi reign in East Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, gives a contrast between the different worlds and any past crimes are held to account in a unified Germany.

Berlin is one of my favourite cities, and I've spent time living and discovering this diverse city and its surrounding areas. Seeing my characters in familiar places, they seem to come to life.

Hope you enjoy my Hanne Drais books."


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