Silesian Station

by David Downing

I bought and downloaded this as soon as I had finished the previous book in the John Russell series, Zoo Station.

I didn’t find this book as enthralling as the previous one. The backdrop of Nazi Germany in the months before and immediately after the outbreak of war was interesting and believable, but the spy action didn’t get me very excited and the characters, especially that of the ‘hero’ John Russell, are starting to be unexciting.  I also find it totally unconvincing that he buys a car and then proceeds to drive everywhere, including around Berlin. Surely travelling by tram would be more expedient, more affordable and, above all, less conspicuous.

Downing would do well to have his text proof-read by someone who understands German.  Unnecessary typos or grammatical errors spoiled my enjoyment somewhat.  ‘Das deutsche Post’….?

I may not bother to read any more in this series. Stettin Station, Potsdam Station, Lehrer Station and Masaryk Station have been published so far.


Zoo Station

by David Downing

This is the first of a series of books featuring the ‘reluctant spy’ John Russell.  One of the later books was put forward by a member of my book group, and I decided to start at the beginning of the series.

The setting is Berlin in the late 1930s.  Russell is a British journalist with an American mother.  His young son, Paul, lives in Berlin with Russell’s ex-wife and her new husband, and Russell shares in his care at weekends.  He thus has a strong motive for staying in Germany even as the political situation might make it advisable for him to leave.

Russell, who has spent some time in Moscow as a young communist, gradually gets involved in spying for the Russians.  He also ‘works for’ the German Sicherheitsdienst, as well as the British intelligence services.  His personal convictions and sense of what is right lead him to try to help a Jewish family escape the country, and he trades favours with the various agencies for whom he is working.

The story is fast-paced, with the Berlin setting providing a steady backdrop to the action.  Russell takes his girlfriend, Effi, into his confidence (especially in the next book, Silesian Station) and she becomes his side-kick.

I found myself so carried along by this story that I immediately ordered the next in the series when I had finished it.