A John Russell WWII Spy Thriller, Book 7
From the publisher:
The prequel to David Downing’s bestselling Station series introduces John Russell, an Englishman with a political past who must keep his head down as the Nazis solidify their power.
February 27, 1933. In this stunning prequel to the John Russell espionage novels, the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin is set ablaze. It’s just a month after Hitler’s inauguration as Chancellor of Germany, and the Nazis use the torching to justify a campaign of terror against their political opponents. John Russell’s recent separation from his wife threatens his right to reside in Germany and any meaningful relationship with his six-year-old son, Paul. He has just secured work as a crime reporter for a Berlin newspaper, and the crimes which he has to report—the gruesome murder of a rent boy, the hit-and-run death of a professional genealogist, the suspicious disappearance of a Nazi-supporting celebrity fortune-teller—are increasingly entangled in the wider nightmare engulfing Germany.
Each new investigation carries the risk of Russell’s falling foul of the authorities, at a time when the rule of law has completely vanished, and the Nazis are running scores of pop-up detention centers, complete with torture chambers, in every corner of Berlin.
The current novel is the 7th featuring John Russell, an Englishman by birth, but living and working in Berlin in the years prior to World War II. The book is indicated as a prequel to the other novels and I must say at the onset that it is, in my opinion, the most mesmerizing. I also rank it as one of the best books I yet have read by David Downing and he has certainly more than made his mark as a top author in his many areas.
The period covered by the novel includes the years during the late 1930s and describes a period when a lunatic fringe took power and turned Germany into a madman’s domain with the very worse becoming the leaders of the country. Downing has done, as normal for him, a great deal of research into the period and can describe the emerging of the new Germany in great detail. Hitler has grabbed power taking over as Chancellor of the country and early on staged a fire in the Reichstag Parliament building. Using the fire as an excuse to crack down on groups such as the Communist party, gays, Jews, and any other sectors where the torment on these people can be utilized to coalesce changing the truth for Nazi fiction. Loudspeakers are set up all over the cities so that Hitler’s speeches can reach everyone. It becomes a suspicious act if people are not listening and praising. It also becomes a necessary part of life for all to read Mein Kampf, Hitler’s manifest and plan for the future of Germany.
John Russell is picked up when he is working as a crime reporter for a major Berlin newspaper. He is divorced from his wife but has no problem visiting and having a relationship with his five-year-old son the couple had when married. In the events described in this book, he becomes involved in three occurrences and is attempting to cover them for his paper. The first is the murder of a young male prostitute, another the running over of a professional genealogist, and the third the disappearance of a Nazi supporting fortune teller. The three events become somewhat related with the actual facts of the cases becoming skewed by different factions of the Nazi party. Care must be taken to not rub the Nazi party the wrong way. Punishment can be firing from a job, taking over a business, and even death.
The steady increase in Nazi oversight with brutality and forced obedience to an ever-changing set of rules is brought out by the author. It is the loss of personal freedom engendered by a population that will not or cannot oppose their oppressors.
The novel ends with John meeting the girl that becomes his new love interest in the books already written. It also indicates that he will stay in Berlin and become more and more involved with the different directions of Germany and its moving into war. Finishing the book will also leave the reader drained and, if not read yet, anxious to get into the next book in the series.
3/2021 Paul Lane
WEDDING STATION by David Downing. Soho Crime (March 2, 2021). ISBN: 978-1641291071. 336 pages.