Set against the stark background of East Berlin in the 1970s, Sektion 20 is an atmospheric evocation rites of passage lived out against the bleak, authoritarian communist regime. There is subtlety in the discontent that protagonist Alex feels against the system; this begins with the seeds of unease and a testing of boundaries that is characteristic in adolescence. It gradually magnifies and grows to become something all the more threatening, electrifying and dangerous as the net closes in upon Alex.
The ideals of the socialist structure under communism are explored and presented alongside some of the excesses of the more consumerist Western outlook, providing plenty of food for thought. Dowswell achieves a sense of balance between the fast paced action and adrenaline rush of a thriller and the detail and realism of a historical novel in this perfectly pitched hybrid novel which will keep readers gripped throughout.