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Karin Müller  is the only female head of a murder commission in the German Democratic Republic, with the rank of Oberleutnant or first lieutenant. Not yet thirty, she's also the youngest head of a murder squad in East Germany, and is married to Gottfried. They don't have children and during the course of the book we discover why. Müller is dedicated to her work and believes, at least at the start of the novel, in the socialist ideal.

Werner Tilsner is Müller's deputy with the rank of Unterleutnant (second lieutenant in English). He's married with two teenage children, but not averse to extra marital affairs. He's prepared to stretch the rules to get things done, but seems to be protected for some reason by Stasi officer Klaus Jäger (see below). Despite their militaristic ranks, normally Müller and Tilsner would work in plain clothes, much in the same way as detectives in the West.

Klaus Jäger A smooth-operating Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel) with the Ministry for State Security or MfS - more commonly known as the Stasi, the East German secret police or internal security service. Jäger is in effect the 'handler' of Müller and Tilsner: recruiting them to do the dirty work for his faction of the Stasi. This is unusual in itself. Normally the People's Police and Stasi would liaise at a high level (for example Jäger's rank)but wouldn't be involved in joint operations.

Jonas Schmidt Schmidt is a Kriminaltechniker: in other words the forensic officer or boffin of the Mitte Murder Commission, Müller's small murder squad team in the centre of East Berlin. He's fond of all types of German sausage, and according to Tilsner never uses one word when two will do.

Gottfried Müller Karin's husband, a Maths teacher disillusioned with life under communism, and particularly the need to inculcate his pupils with socialist dogma. As a punishment, he was temporarily moved to a Jugendwerkhof (lit: youth work yard - a cross between a youth prison and reform school) for several months the year before the discovery of the body at the start of Stasi Child

Irma Behrendt Rebellious red-headed 15-year-old Irma is an inmate at Jugendwerkhof Prora Ost - the reform school where Gottfried teaches. Irma's there because of the imprisonment of her dissident mother, and the fact that she kept on running away from less severe East German children's homes. Her story begins nine months before the discovery of the body.

Beate Ewert Irma's best friend and dorm mate in the reform school, housed on the Baltic island of Rügen - in a monolithic building that was supposed to be a holiday camp for Nazi workers, but never completed. Beate is crying all the time, but she won't tell Irma what's wrong.

Matthias Gelman The same age as Irma and Beate - and also an inmate at the Jugendwerkhof. Matthias and Beate are girlfriend and boyfriend - and the beautiful couple amongst the teens. But Matthias is closely-guarding his own secrets.

Franz Neumann The sadistic director of the Jugendwerkhof who together with most of his staff makes life a living hell for the children incarcerated there.