Blog Tour: River Runs Red by Ally Rose

Hello! I’m still on a bit of a break- married life, eh?- but I’m popping in with a blog tour post. Thanks to Damp Pebbles, Fahrenheit Press and Ally Rose for letting me be part of this blog tour.

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What’s it about?

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?

My thoughts

I’ve always been fascinated with the Cold War, and specifically Berlin during this time. How a city could be so divided by such different ideologies is a source of endless intrigue for me. So any novel centred around this time was always going to capture my attention.

I think the first thing to say is I don’t think I’ve ever read such a well-researched novel. Rose has certainly done their* homework when it comes to the Stasi; some of the scenes were quite hard to read. There’s a particular interrogation technique called ‘the U-Boat’ where prisoners are made to stand in cells of icy water up to their necks. Just the thought of this fills me with horror, and I have no doubt it was an actual method used by the Staatssicherheitsdienst.

This thorough background work underpins a work based around dark secrets and shady characterisation. It’s formed of two narratives, one set in 1999 and one in the late 1980s. The novels opens with the death of a former East German Sports Minister; someone is killing Stasi informants, 10 years after the Berlin Wall has come down. In the 1980s narrative, we meet the Meixner family, split by defections and betrayals. Jasper, the father, has gone to West Berlin, leaving his sons to be rounded up by the Stasi and tortured. Rudy, the younger son, is the main focus here. He has great promise as an athlete, despite the ‘vitamins’ his coaches insist on, but politics run deeper than sporting prowess and his place on the rowing team is no safeguard.

I found the characters in this book to be quite nuanced and thought-provoking. Rudy is intelligent, determined to survive at all costs, and I never warmed to him. He feels cold, probably as a result of his survival instincts, and I could never be sure of his guilt or innocence. Equally, although I wanted the ‘modern day’ police to catch the killer, the intertwining of the 1980s narrative added another dimension to the killer’s character; no one is ever wholly good or bad.

Would I recommend it?

This is definitely more than just a crime novel. I’d recommend it if you fancy an immersive thriller, with plenty of history and politics thrown in.

*Ally Rose is a little mysterious as an author. I’m fairly sure the name is a nom de plume, and they could be any gender, so I’m going to call them ‘they’ for the purposes of this review.

The River Runs Red by Ally Rose is published by Fahrenheit Press priced £8.95.

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