Zoo Station – David Downing   Leave a comment

Zoo Station – David Downing

This is a book I had in my large tbr pile, so whilst having a ‘do nothing’ day, I decided to read it.

It is the first in a series of World War 2 spy thrillers featuring John Russell. Each title features the name of a station, thus they are referred to as the station series. The series contains 6 books. They all feature Russell, an anglo-american character, who in this book is a reporter. The books follow him in his exploits throughout Germany during the war years.

The author, David Downing, is a British author with many novels under his belt. He is known for his particularly convincing depiction of WW2 and Berlin, probably due to his studies and familiarity with the subject.

The book is set in 1939 over the early part of the year, before Britain entered the war. Russell, at this point, is a reporter working often for American and English papers, but essentially by commission only. He had married a German girl, and is now divorced, but remains in Germany mainly for his young son.

The actin opens in Danzig, where Russell witnesses severe unnecessary brutality on the part of Nazi soldiers whilst a Kinder-transport train is leaving from there. He begins to realise how much he, and others have been ignoring the situation and keeping their heads down whilst terrible things are happening. This becomes a theme throughout the book, and each character is examined this way, if often obliquely.

He receives an offer to write pro nazi articles for the Russians, as part of their push to sign a non-aggression pact with Hitler. It is obviously a spy making this offer, Russell is torn whether to take the job. He knows it will cause his profile to become obvious to MI6 as well as the Nazis. However he is determined to stay near his son.

He has contacts in the American embassy, who arrange for him to teach english to some people. His friend offers him a new teaching job, it is to teach 2 teenage daughters of a Jewish doctor, who is no longer allowed to practice. He is looking to send his family to England and feels they need to improve their English. Russell becomes very involved with this family, eventually risking everything to get them to safety.

I loved the historical accuracy and detail of Berlin in this book. Every place he went was described in detail, you felt as if the place was just outside. The story too was original and intricate enough keep my attention but not give everything away too soon.

The subplot involving his American journalist friend investigating the reputed killing of all chronically ill and brain damaged children was particularly interesting, as it is an angle not often pursued.

I would recommend this book to an lover of spy fiction or indeed ww2 fiction.



Posted January 19, 2018 by dianne7 in book review

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