Fiction - Suspense
395 Pages
Reviewed on 07/15/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

Infiltration by Rachel R. Heil is set in East Berlin, in 1986, where Lina Prochnow, an ambitious figure skater, and Ernst Jung, a dedicated Stasi officer, embody contrasting dreams and duties amidst the politically charged environment of the Soviet-occupied German Democratic Republic. Their lives intersect due to a rebellious group, the Brotherhood, perceived as freedom fighters by Lina and terrorists by Ernst. The execution of Lina's boyfriend and Brotherhood leader, Georg Bauer, on Ernst's command, fuels her determination to infiltrate the Stasi as Ernst's secretary and avenge Georg. Conversely, Ernst sees her inclusion as a chance to undermine the Brotherhood, suspecting Lina's association. They navigate their agendas amidst mounting tensions, their divergent perspectives unfolding against the backdrop of the collapsing Iron Curtain in a gripping narrative that is a blend of historical truths and fiction.

Infiltration by Rachel R. Heil is a deliciously tense novel with a lot going for it. Lina is relatable as a character and someone you really want to root for. On a level of being able to parallel concerns that the public at large still has today, and how those manifest in a young woman of the 80s, a reader doesn't need to look much further to find solidarity than when Lina discovers a Stasi file on herself. We all suspect ordinary people are under government surveillance, but Lina holding the proof in her hands decades before feels authentic and timely. The story settings are spectacular and as close to literary cinema as one can get. These range from the glitter of ice on a rink to Prenzlauer, with its war-torn buildings. "Still bearing the obvious signs of the war with buildings sprayed in colorful graffiti, it felt industrial in appearance and attitude." The grit extends to what the characters experience themselves as they undergo a barrage of physical and psychological fear and torture. I found Ernst's arc to be the most intriguing; his frustrations and outbursts make us want to get through so much more. Overall, this is a well-written novel and I have no doubt others will feel the same. Very highly recommended.