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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 1 May 2017
Loved the previous tales in the series - and this is simply a superb addition to the collection. Entertaining, with scatterings of witty dialogue interspersed with the serious business of life in Berlin (and beyond) in the 5 years after the end of WWII. John Russell is an interesting character, full of contradictions - hope the author can squeeze out yet one more in the series!
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on 19 March 2017
An intriguing story of the "station" novel characters set against the background of the Soviet battles to take Berlin in 1945. The description of the battles seems to me to be quite accurate.
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on 19 October 2014
Another cracker from David Downing's Station series. I have thoroughly enjoyed every one. Don't miss this final episode. Sorry not to be able to meet the characters again.
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on 27 April 2017
A fitting ending to the 5 stations. I wasn't disappointed by any of the books. A good way to understand what happened in Germany before, during and after the war.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 January 2014
Masaryk Station is a powerful and fitting conclusion to David Downing's 'Station' series. I was totally absorbed, racing to the end, but not wanting it to finish! Intelligent and complex plotting, rich and atmospheric detail and historically accurate settings across post war Europe make this an engrossing and convincing read. Allied Forces occupy an increasingly isolated Berlin. Downing's writing seems understated but he skilfully creates a sense of division and oppression. The Cold War American/Russian power struggle has started and our hero, John Russell, is right in the thick of it a foot in both murky camps working as a double agent.

Right from Zoo Station, the first book of the series, I've found Russell well rounded, complex and totally plausible as a protagonist. He's now a family man looking to the future. But with a conscience. His moral ambiguity means choices. Which is the right one and why?

The opening scene is brutal but believable. The pace thereafter varies as the story moves across Europe, deftly weaving together a number of threads to the main and sub plots. Then it races to a well rounded conclusion. Although fiction, the grubby cat and mouse world of espionage and duplicity is exposed with honesty and truth. It's a glorious slow burn which kept me enthralled.
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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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on 5 February 2014
A fitting end to an excellent series of novels. David Downing has created believable characters, whose day to day existence recreates the atmosphere of Berlin pre-war, post-war and during the war years themselves.
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on 30 August 2014
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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on 26 May 2013
Ordered for wife. Book came on time and has been good reading for the wife. She would recomment to others.
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on 12 June 2013
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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