Berlin 1989. The Soviet Union economy is bankrupt and the only hope is financial aid from the West German Bank. The Stasi corrupted members still try to benefit from their positions. One of the high rank party’s members does the right thing though, and sends two young spies to Stasi Headquarters to reveal financial fraud. Unfortunately, they face many obstacles on their way. Alex Cugia offers astounding political thriller involving financial fraud, murder and romance. I don’t want to reveal everything but some notable historical figures will also show up.
The story of financial fraud set in East Germany is appealing and intriguing. The author did a great job to combine the story with historical facts of the regime collapse in East Germany. Although the book is rather long and story line gets complicated, I have not found any inconsistencies or errors. The plot is well developed and I did not get confused.
The two main characters deserve more focus. Both of them have the same purpose/ mission but their relationships with Stasi have different background. Betina joined the party because she always believed in communism. According to her, the East is decent and happy place while in the West only buying things matters. Her beliefs and opinions prove political blindness. She has personal reason to hate the other part of the Wall- her father left her and her mother and started new family in West Germany.
Thomas, on the other hand, became a spy because he was forced to do this. Like many other people, he was tortured, blackmailed and in consequence broken. The ways that communists used to make people work for them were horrible and outrageous. Blackmail was one of the methods to make Thomas collaborate: “…we don’t particularly enjoy sending young people like you to jail. (…) This (…) will certainly destroy whatever career you had in mind”.
With time Thomas took his assignment seriously. However, it was about having purpose in his life, solving the case and doing the right thing rather than his attachment to the totalitarian state. Of course, beautiful Betina was another reason.
After collapse of the Berlin Wall, Betina and Thomas got into argument which part, East or West, is better place to live. They represent differences in communist and democratic philosophy. Actually, those polemics between people from different political systems are excellent elements of the book.
The young woman was strongly convinced that:
”We’ll become enslaved to Western desires for consumer goods, to buying stuff we don’t want and don’t need. I want to have time to think, to experience life and people, not be hit constantly with your advertising, your marketing to buy, buy, buy, get the latest, get the best, get the newest…’’
According to her: ”The Wall was to keep all that out, to keep your lifestyle out, not to keep us in”. She does not consider the Wall are something negative; she thinks about it as a protection from evil of Western world.
Thomas has different perspective of freedom and happiness: ”But walls are symbols, Betina…and any country which builds wall to keep others out, to try to keep themselves secure, has already failed”. He adds: ”It is human nature. People long for better life. You can’t just try to fence people in and tell them to try to be happy. Or tell them what they should believe in”.
The events unfold in rather slow pace but gripping escape scenes set in metro tunnel hooked me and I said to myself yeah, this is really good read!
There is one little element in Helsinki Pact that stole my heart… Trabant car! This was the car of 80s and early 90s in Central and Eastern Europe. I come from Poland and I have special sentiment for Trabants. I remember when still in late 90s parents of my friend were driving this wonderful car… spacious, noisy and emitting enormous amount of smoke. For me this is one of the symbols of life under communist regime and during transition period.
If you interested in history of Central and Eastern Europe and financial crime this book is definitely for you!
Overall rating: 5/5
(review of free book)