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4.0 out of 5 stars Post-war Berlin..., 12 May 2012
This review is from: Lehrter Station (John Russell) (Hardcover)
David Downing's new novel, "Lerter Station", is the fifth book in his John Russell series. Begun in pre-war Berlin and continuing through the war, Downing now takes his characters in this book from London to Berlin in the fall of 1945. Russell and his girl-friend, actress Effi Koenen, return to the war-ruined city in a somewhat convoluted plot involving Soviet spies. Most plots dealing with spies in these books - Downing's, Philip Kerr's, Alan Furst's - usually have the spies double, tripling, hell, even quadruple, spying. Frankly, I got confused dealing with the who/what/why of the spying in Downing's book. So I tended to concentrate on the other parts of the story, which were far more interesting.

Life in post-war Berlin was difficult enough for the city's residents. So many buildings were damaged, so many people lost in the bombings and war battles and, of course, in the concentration camps. The city was a meeting place for the war's survivors and most people were trying to find loved ones and friends they had lost track of during the war. The city was divided into four parts - American, British, French, and Russian - and while people could move between the parts fairly easily, already the Russian Zone was taking on an ominous tone as restrictions were beginning to be put in place by the occupying Soviets. Russell has returned to do a little spying, a little reporting, and a lot of fence-mending. Effi has returned to act in a new movie, the first to be filmed in post-war Germany. She was also trying to find the father of a young Jewish girl she had sheltered during the war and was hoping to permanently adopt, as well as the daughter of a Jewish couple she had helped during the war. Downing also includes many other characters from the four earlier books. I think this book might be his last in the series, only because he does tie up a lot of loose ends.

I really wish there had been less of the spying story - by the middle of the book I couldn't tell who was allied with who and, frankly, didn't much care - and more of the "side stories". He writes well about the Jewish pipeline from Europe to Palestine as well as the black-market industry and daily life in a cold, bombed out city, trying to come to terms with its past and make a future under the presence of four occupying powers. I think "Lehrter Station" is the weakest of the five books, but it was still worth reading.
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Jill Meyer
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Location: United States

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