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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living through desperate times
With the final installment in the John Russell series of novels, David Downing now takes his characters to the first crisis of the Cold War with the Berlin Airlift. Loose ends left from the previous book are tied up, sorting out what will happen to characters and relationships; and along the way the author subtly uses what is occurring politically in Yugoslavia, and in...
Published on 21 May 2013 by Christopher H

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A reasonable end to an excellent series.
This is the last in the "Station" series and I'm already thinking that I've been a bit harsh in only giving it three stars but I'm sticking to it for a number of small reasons that I shall explain later.
In "Lehrter Station" David Downing painted a superb picture of post-War Berlin; a grubby world of mixed morals, the fit child of the Nazi War. In...
Published 9 months ago by Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk


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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living through desperate times, 21 May 2013
By 
Christopher H (Keilor, Australia) - See all my reviews
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With the final installment in the John Russell series of novels, David Downing now takes his characters to the first crisis of the Cold War with the Berlin Airlift. Loose ends left from the previous book are tied up, sorting out what will happen to characters and relationships; and along the way the author subtly uses what is occurring politically in Yugoslavia, and in Czechoslovakia, to present the two main options facing East Germany as Stalin cracks down on countries he has occupied. Of course, there is a mystery to solve, too - a puzzling suicide - but it isn't forced. People get on with everyday living.

If John Russell is often away on work in Trieste, Prague and other locations, his wife Effi Koenen is back in Berlin, and it is through her that we watch the Russians clamp down on the capital, inch by inch trying to isolate the city and cut it off. In this Russell's old friend Gerhard Strohm gives the view from inside the German communist party, showing how members are manipulated/coerced by Moscow into doing things they fundamentally disagree with. Strohm is incredulous to discover that forced Labor Camps are being set up within East Germany, and through him we see the impact that Koestler's then fresh novel Darkness at Noon had on German communists as Russian oppression set in. In subtle ways Effi and Gerhard characterise Berliners who can see repression creeping up, and just don't know what to do to prevent the rise of a new police state.

Downing's books are often compared to Philip Kerr's and Alan Furst's, although to my mind they have more the gradual pace, complexity of characterisation and strength of detail of Eric Ambler (especially Judgement on Deltchev) and Olivia Manning's Fortunes of War: The Balkan Trilogy. There isn't the rush from one suspenseful incident to another, or the language and mood of a hard boiled thriller. John Russell doesn't go looking for trouble, doesn't bed-hop, and isn't making wise-cracks to the reader. If I certainly am a fan of Kerr's Bernie Gunther thrillers, for me Downing builds a more plausible view of what it was like to live through desperate times.

(I see David Downing begins a new series of pre-WW1 espionage tales with his novel Jack of Spies to be published later this year.)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A reasonable end to an excellent series., 30 Aug. 2014
By 
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk (Oldham) - See all my reviews
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This is the last in the "Station" series and I'm already thinking that I've been a bit harsh in only giving it three stars but I'm sticking to it for a number of small reasons that I shall explain later.
In "Lehrter Station" David Downing painted a superb picture of post-War Berlin; a grubby world of mixed morals, the fit child of the Nazi War. In "Masaryk Station" the world of 1948 feels perhaps a little less grubby but more uncertain because of the political game the Soviets are playing. It was interesting reading about a Berlin where the divisions of the times to come did not exist and which were unimaginable. People seem to move around between zones with perfect freedom but also with an understanding of the undertones that exist in Soviet behaviour. Abroad (because that's where a lot of the action in the first half of the book takes place) it is the Americans who are playing a duplicitous game just as they did in "Lehrter Station". They have allied themselves with former Nazi supporters in what they know will be the coming conflict with the Soviets. They play a quiet role in supporting the number of escape routs that have been set up for Ukrainian Nazi-supporting nationalists, bloodthirsty Croat racists and for Soviet defectors. Our hero, John Russell is in the middle of both these worlds and thus has no illusions about either party. His hands feel filthy and he would love to get out.
Then along comes an opportunity. Something has turned up that might just provide Russell and his family with a get-out-of-jail-free ticket...
On the whole this was a good read marred only by the terrible grammatical errors that appear to have been thrown into the publication like spanners intended to ruin my day. They are irritating and evidence of a rush into publication (either that or the Soviets have been at it... or those incompetent US officers that crop up in the book). Without wishing to spoil the read for anyone else, I do think the outcome is a little simplistic and even "innocent" for a book that has its feet in the realpolitik of those uncertain times. Another ending would have been much more realistic... Oh cynic that I am!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shame it's the last in the series, 12 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: Masaryk Station (John Russell series Book 6) (Kindle Edition)
Up there with the rest of the series, and I'll be sad to see the last of John and Effi. Maybe if we put enough pressure on Mr Downing, he will do another, after all, the ending gave me the impression that it's at least a possibility. Or maybe that's just wisful thinking on my part.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Series, 25 Aug. 2013
By 
Luis Gouveia "lg" (Lisbon, Portugal) - See all my reviews
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i) my evaluation is for the whole series
ii)at the end of the last book, Downing mentions Greene and Furst as the two authors in the special "elusive writing"
club; i guess that with the book sin this series, Downing deserves to be in the club
iii) in the last book, the author refers a lot, in fact it is na importante part of the story,
to Yugoslavia after the war and the "disagreement" between the communist parties of Yugoslavia and Soviet Union;
this was quite refreshing; not clear why this topic is not more seen in other spy/thriller books

Great series ! Pity it is the lastbook in the series. Hopefully, the author will get back to it in the future
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The End, 24 Nov. 2013
By 
Ted Feit (Long Beach, NY USA) - See all my reviews
With this, the sixth novel in the John Russell series, David Downing brings to a finale the chronicle covering the years between the World Wars, those following the collapse of Nazi Germany. It has been quite a journey, with Russell having served as a double agent for both the Soviets and Americans, certainly as dangerous as an existence can be. Each of the novels reflected the times and the clashes of the ideological differences between the two countries.

In the final book, the story of a divided Germany and Berlin is recounted, ending with the seeds that were sown in the fall of the Soviet Empire. At the same time, the personal conflicts that beset Russell and others who at first embraced and then questioned socialism are explored and analyzed.

Each entry in the series was well-crafted to not only tell a gripping story of our times, but to call to mind the era as portrayed by real-life characters. It has been an excellently told saga. (It is unfortunate that the latest volume suffers from poor production, editing and proofreading, riddled with typographical and grammatical errors.) Next spring, we are promised a new series by the author moving back in time to World War I.

My parenthetical criticism notwithstanding, the novel is recommended.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The end of the line, 2 Sept. 2013
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...for David Downing's series set in Germany during the 30s and 40s. The first, 'Zoo Station', was very good and possibly stands comparison with Alan Furst's work, but the last two novels have been very weak. The Effi Koenen character has come more to the fore as the series has progressed, consequently the stories have softened both in content and their telling. It's a shame because she's a good character but making her more of an equal with John Russell had shifted the focus somewhat and I don't think it works very well.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative Spy Novel, 20 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Masaryk Station (John Russell series Book 6) (Kindle Edition)
Another brilliant novel in this excellent series. Set mainly in Berlin and Prague, in the uneasy peace following the 2nd world war, John Russell now working as a double agent for both the Russians and the Americans, tries to keep those close to him safe whilst appeasing both his masters. As usual in this author's books, there is a great sense of place, especially with ordinary people trying to carry on their normal lives in a bombed out city.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Last One!, 15 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: Masaryk Station (John Russell series Book 6) (Kindle Edition)
This was the last of the brilliant John Russell series. If you havent read any of the others ...start at the beginning with Zoo Station (check!) and work through them...although the stories have been told before (see Sarah Gainham Night falls on the City for an actress getting through the war - in Vienna rather than Berlin) they are well written and keep you reading. I thought once the war ended the books after wouldnt be so interesting - but the cold war backdrop is very good and this one is more full of suspense than the others.
They had to stop somewhere......and here was a good place!!!!?????
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Series, 2 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Masaryk Station (John Russell series Book 6) (Kindle Edition)
The Station series of books are the sort that you want to start all over again once you have finished them - really good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Masaryk Station, 27 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Masaryk Station (John Russell series Book 6) (Kindle Edition)
I will really miss this series which has sadly come to an end. I grew to be very fond of John Russell and Effi and cared about what happened to them and their family.
The series brought that whole mid-'30s to late '40s period in Europe to vivid life.
Highly commended.
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