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The International Writers Magazine: Review Archives

Plan D by Simon Urban
Published by Harvill Secker
ISBN: 987-1-846-55692-0
• Sam North review
If you are a compulsive reader of Martin Cruz Smith ‘Arcady Renko’ Moscow Detective series Wolves Eat Dogs,  Polar Star etc you are well primed to tackle Simon Urban’s  Detective Martin Wegener, disillusioned East German cop in a ‘Socialist Paradise’ circa 2011.
Plan D

In 1989 /90 the Berlin Wall opened, several million fled East Germany and then it was closed up again.  You don’t remember that?  Let Wegener fill you in on the details. The revolution never happened. There was no unification. East did not meet West.  The Stasi, supposedly shrunk and powerless, still secretly runs everything and the economy, such as it is, is powered by mobile technology.  Imagine if you will that the Stasi invented the smart phone so they could spy on everyone.  If you don’t have a Minsk 7 phone you’re nobody.  Cops make do with a Minsk 5 of course.

If you are a new author you have to carve out some territory to command and defend from all comers.  Inventing an alternate future for East Berlin is clever.  You own ALL the real estate and you say what goes.  Wegener doesn’t solve cases.  He isn’t meant to.  Any sign of a solution and he has to sign it over to C5 (which is the Stasi in all but name).  People live nutrition free lives, envious of how others live in the West, just as it always was.  East Germany is grim, grey, and paranoid and an old man has just been found hung from the Russian Gas pipeline hanging by his shoelaces – a signature of assassination by the Stasi.  Only the Stasi isn’t supposed to exist and if it does, the big contract to supply gas to the West (which provides income for East Germany) is in jeopardy.

A flash Mercedes driving West German Investigator Brendel is assigned to assist Wegener solve the crime (as long as they don’t pin it on the Stasi).  Everyone stares at the cops vehicle as they are all still driving plastic cars that fall apart as you drive them.  Envy is a daily part of an East Berliner.  Wegener and Brendel discover the old man had two identities, two lives and a young mistress, but why would anyone want to kill an 85-year-old man?  Revenge served cold?

Wegener is a troubled cop.  Haunted by his missing mentor, Fruchtl, who went missing on an investigation.  The older man’s bitter thoughts are with him always.
If only they could find the ideology spot in the brain, the place where political delusion is consolidated… Wegener was recently dumped by the gorgeous and ambitious Karolina, who works in the Gas Ministry.  It was the love of his life, but perhaps he didn’t appreciate that until he lost her.  That too bugs him mightily.  Sex is on his mind much of the time or the lack of it.  He would like to be good cop, would love to find the truth, but in East Germany no one wants the truth – ever.

Gripping, intense, brilliantly observed, with all the heavy tension of an early Le Carré you’ll find Plan D bitter and knowing.  Simon Urban has found a promised land and he is well on his way to conquering it.  You will want Wegener to succeed.  The odds though are stacked against him.
© Sam North
Diamonds – The Rush of ‘72 & Another Place to Die: Endtime

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