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Masaryk Station (A John Russell WWII Spy Thriller) Hardcover – June 18, 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 114 customer reviews
Book 6 of 6 in the John Russell Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for Masaryk Station

"Epic in scope, Mr. Downing's "Station" cycle creates a fictional universe rich with a historian's expertise but rendered with literary style and heart."
—The Wall Street Journal

"Downing adroitly elucidates the morass that was post-World War II geopolitics without dumbing it down... One can only marvel at his talent for infusing such a rangy cast of characters with nuance and soul."
—The New York Times Book Review

"This is a brilliant finale to one of spydom’s best series. If you haven’t read all the others, get them first and enjoy the whole feast."
—The Globe and Mail

"Downing is one of a trio of exceptional writers (Philip Kerr and Alan Furst being the other two) who have managed to re-create a time and place when much of the world seemed to have gone temporarily mad."
—The Denver Post

“Downing’s outstanding evocation of the times (as masterly as that found in Alan Furst’s novels or Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series), thematic complexity (as rich as that of John le Carré), and the wide assortment of fully rendered characters provide as much or more pleasure than the plot, where disparate threads are tied together in satisfying and unexpected ways.”
Library Journal, STARRED Review

“Downing returns with another taut tale of espionage as World War II shades deeper into the Cold War and good guys get harder to tell from bad.... Downing writes with a sure grasp of the way bad situations become worse; he’s a master of heightened tension and the sweat-bedewed upper lip... The local color and cigarette smoke are thick, and so is the plot, with fine MacGuffins, a truly red herring or two, and even a man in the boot to keep things interesting.”
—Kirkus Reviews

"If your reaction is anything like mine, you'll want to continue through the entire series."
—Books & Culture

”The Station books are without a doubt some of the finest espionage novels these days, easily inviting comparisons to the legends of the genre like John le Carre, Frederick Forsyth and Tom Clancy… You won’t want to read anything else until you have devoured the entire series.”
—BookPage (Top Pick in Mystery)

"David Downing has created a complicated plot with many twists and turns while the hero seems caught in a maze."
Historical Novel Society

"This is a thrilling and suspenseful espionage series, one of the best being written today. One cares about Russell and his family and even the somewhat oily Shchepkin as they attempt to unravel themselves from the brutal and unfeeling intelligence services. It’s an extremely dangerous time and the likelihood for failure is high. If you like spy novels, you need to read all of the John Russell series."
—Bookgasm

"I loved Masaryk Station. The plot in interesting, but the real point is the insight into the times. It provided insights and aroused emotions in me concerning my own experiences during the Cold War and helped build some perspective over the world events that I, in my youth, only knew asfact."
—Gumshoe Review

"A wonderfully written mixture of history, espionage, and suspense. Downing perfectly captures post-war Berlin.... Intelligently written, provocatively told, and thoroughly convincing in every aspect, [John] Russell is a man who will not soon be forgotten by the readers of these books."
—Deadly Pleasures

"The book is a wonderful introduction to the Berlin Blockade, told through an exciting story with likeable characters." 
Blogcritics.org

Praise for David Downing
 
"Full of striking inventions."
─Kingsley Amis, author of Lucky Jim
 
"A beautifully crafted and compelling thriller with a heart-stopping ending as John Russell learns the personal faces of good and evil. An unforgettable read."
─Charles Todd, author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge Series
 
"One of the most intelligent and persuasive realizations of Germany immediately before the war."
Wall Street Journal
 
"In the elite company of literary spy masters Alan Furst and Philip Kerr ... [Downing is] brilliant at evoking even the smallest details of wartime Berlin on its last legs."
Washington Post

Downing distinguishes himself by eschewing the easy ways out. He doesn't shy away from portraying the cold brutality of the Third Reich, and his characters are far from stereotypes—they're flawed, confused and real.”
—NPR

About the Author

David Downing grew up in suburban London. He is the author of five previous books in the John Russell series, Zoo Station, Silesian Station, Stettin Station, Potsdam Station, and Lehrter Station. He lives with his wife, an American
acupuncturist, in Guildford, England.
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Product Details

  • Series: A John Russell WWII Spy Thriller (Book 6)
  • Hardcover: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime; First Edition edition (June 18, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616952237
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616952235
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #663,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As readers, why are so many of us drawn to series books? Is it our fascination with the characters we've grown familiar with and we want to see in new adventures or new love affairs? Maybe because we already know the back-stories of the characters, we can adjust to a new plot without much trouble? In any case, I'm a lover of series books as much as anyone and that's why I've eagerly jumped at British author David Downing's new book, "Masaryk Station".

Masaryk Station is located in Prague, not the Berlin of Downing's previous books in his John Russell/Effi Koenen WW2 and post-war series. Russell is an American who has lived in Berlin since the 1930's - it's now 1948 in this new book - and is a jack-of-all trades; tinker, tailor, author, and SPY. Actually, Russell is a spy for at least two governments - the US and the Soviets - and I gave up trying to figure out his actual allegiances in the previous book, "Lehrter Station", which was published last year. I was midway through that book when I realised I couldn't keep everyone in the spy part of the plot separate and I didn't much care. So, I finished that book and enjoyed the "people part". And I approached this book, "Masaryk Station" with the same reading intentions.

"Masaryk Station" begins - and ends - in 1948. Effi Koenen, Russell's German wife, is a famous actor, who has somehow managed not to compromise her principles working in German film during the Nazi era. That was a bit harder than it sounds, actually, but Koenen ended up in a "cleared" status of war-time activities. Both Russell and Koenen and their immediate family and friends are eking out lives in divided Berlin. The Soviets are threatening the Allied powers with closing off access to Berlin from the west.
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Format: Hardcover
Masaryk Station appeals to the intellect but not to the heart. David Downing's writing lacks passion and the story is only moderately suspenseful. The plot is nonetheless intriguing and the background is skillfully rendered.

John Russell is an American journalist, but that's a cover for a rather complicated life. He's married to Effi, a German movie star. He also works for the Army's Counter Intelligence Corps, currently (1948) assigned to Berlin. For the moment, however, he's on loan to Trieste, serving as an interpreter for the flood of Russians seeking to defect. He's also running errands for the CIA. He uses his free time to poke into a rat line operated by Catholic priests for the benefit of (among others) the Americans who pay by the head for each refugee smuggled out of Eastern Europe. When they aren't working for pay, the priests are saving the skins of Croatian fascists and fugitive Nazis, an embarrassing fact that Russell would like to expose. Russell's other secret is that he's a double agent who reports to Soviet intelligence.

During the course of the novel, the CIA sends Russell to Udine, Belgrade, and Prague. None of his missions go well, but since Russell doesn't seem to like any of his employers, he's content simply to stay alive -- a tricky proposition given the multiple attempts that are made on his life. Russell's real agenda is to get out from under the thumb of his Russian and American employers.

A less interesting storyline follows Effi in Berlin as she wrestles with career choices (including pressure from the Soviets to act in a movie being filmed in Moscow), assists a mother who hopes to reunite with her daughter in Prague, and becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding an actress' death.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I thought this entry in the John Russell series dragged. I found myself reading other books at the same time. With a good historical espionage story, that shouldn’t happen.

it’s 1948. Downing has found a new way to continue the story of Russell’s divided loyalties. Previously it was his need to stay in Nazi Germany to be near his German national son, and he variously found himself forced into spying for the Nazis, the Soviets, the British or even the Americans.

Now, he’s become a double double agent. The Soviets know he’s still working for the Americans but think he’s doubling for them, and the Americans, vice versa. In on it with him is his disaffected Soviet controller. Both are disillusioned and just want out, but, like the Mafia, it’s not a job you can quit, and so they need the right moment.

Russell has to keep working for the Soviets because, as the price of getting back into Berlin in 1945 to look for his son and his lover, he helped them obtain documents from the dying Nazi state’s nuclear program, and they can blackmail him with that. Neither side is pleased with him and both want him to deliver more damaging information against the other side. Russell just wants to get back to being a journalist.

Meanwhile Russell has married his lover, actress Effi Koenen, and the two have adopted a Jewish war orphan who fell into Effi’s hands as Berlin fell. Her well-being is primary to them, but the Russians threaten the family when Koenen balks at making more propaganda films for them.

The story takes a long sojourn to Yugoslavia. Russell works for the Americans as a translator interrogating Eastern bloc defectors coming through Trieste. There’s a good look at the complexities of the postwar in the area.
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