Your Garage Luxury Beauty Killers of the Flower moon STEM nav_sap_plcc_ascpsc Samsung S8 Launch Limited time offer Wickedly Prime Handmade Mother's Day Gifts hgg17 Shop Popular Services billions billions billions  Introducing Echo Look Starting at $89.99 Kindle Oasis Nintendo Switch Shop Now disgotg_gno_17

Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

Showing 1-10 of 93 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 118 reviews
on February 26, 2015
If you like history, the Russell series is a great read. Read in order to appreciate the series.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 14, 2014
Makes the days before WW II come alive.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
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. The book begins with John Russell working with US and British intelligence in Trieste, examining Soviet defectors. Effi and their adopted daughter are back in Berlin and everyone's lives are a bit on-hold as the international politics play out in Berlin. Some of the supporting characters - Effi's family and Russell's by his previous wife - are going through life changes of their own. It's good to follow all the characters as their stories evolve one step further.

But, I have a feeling that this is Downing's last book in the station series. No plot revelations, so there are no "spoilers" here. I just wonder that since there are a finite number of train stations in Berlin - more may have been built since 1948 - and Downing had to go to Prague to find a station on which to base his story. A "tidier" plot than in his more previous books and a more melancholy tone in the writing said to me, "Finito" to John and Effi. And that's okay; for Downing's readers he has produced another excellent book.
1313 comments| 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon June 12, 2015
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. Many of those who can help the Americans are former Ustashe - Croatia’s particularly savage brand of fascist - or other Axis collaborators guilty of wartime atrocities. Many of the Soviet defectors are actually plants by the KGB (at this point, the MGB), looking to mislead the West.

The Americans have kept Italy from going Communist by influencing - well, buying - the last round of Italian elections. Yugoslavia’s Tito, meanwhile, has broken with the Russians, and the latter might invade to enforce international Communist discipline.

Downing’s description of the backdrop is good, but the story meandered and didn’t hold my attention. Maybe the problem is inside Russell’s, and maybe the author’s, head: The ex-Communist Russell holds few illusions about Communism but can’t find much good to say about America - despite that being where both he and Effi hope to escape. The action heats up in the last third of the book, which redeems the story somewhat, and it apparently resolves and concludes the Russell saga.

The book is ultimately about the disillusion of socialists like Russell, as Russian installation of Communism in Eastern Europe proves repressive rather than utopian.
0Comment| 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The latest episode of this mostly terrific historic/political fiction series is one of the best yet. Action jumps a bit to the early Cold War years in Europe where journalist/double agent John Russell is working as a translator, political refugee facilitator and spy/handyman for the U.S. government while feeding the Soviets bits of intelligence on American and British activities in the area. The double agent role is a wartime arrangement to protect his German family that now sits heavily on Russell's shoulders. He doesn't like the war criminals that the U.S. and Britain are spiriting out of Eastern Europe and he fears the butchery and paranoia of Stalin's government. Back in Berlin, his wife Effie has picked up her film career, but moonlights on the side as a kind of political sleuth--another hangover of the war years.

"Masaryk Station" is a wonderful construct of fast-paced vignettes that take the Russells closer and closer to a showdown with their respective political masters. Author Downing's writing style is smooth-flowing and wonderfully clever in gradually building tension toward a bangup ending. Downing is not big on red herrings and side trips for his characters; every bit of action adds to the general narrative which always moves forward at a good pace.

Great storyline, wonderful characters, credible evocation of time and place. This is a total winner and cements David Downing's place in the top tier of this genre along with Furst, Kerr and even Le Carre. Highly recommended.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on June 21, 2013
Some of the earlier volumes were a little wobbly but this one winds up the series in style. It is nominally a period spy novel / thriller but it is far more a character study as the author sums up several of his main POV characters coming to terms with the new Cold War world and a divided Europe. For people of the left [the author's sympathies as well as those of his characters are obvious] the choice of brash Yank cowboys [mostly in bed with ex- Nazis for their anti-Communist crusade] and dour Stalinists [who crush the life out of any concept of justice or liberty] is a sad end to the great crusade against the Nazi regime. The West is better only in that it offers a space for dissent and personal conscience. This all sounds trite but is quite well handled including vignettes in Tito's Yugoslavia, occupied Trieste, Italy, Austria and newly Communist Prague. A fun read if period fiction is your thing.
0Comment| 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 6, 2013
I've thoroughly enjoyed the previous books in the Station series, and was looking forward to this next installment. Unlike the previous books, however, Masaryk Station seems rather disjointed throughout the majority of the book, only really settling on a plot about three-quarters of the way through. I also noted that there is significantly less action than the previous books, and the ending seemed rushed.

Aside from storyline, Masaryk Station suffers from very poor editing, making the book rather annoying to read. There are numerous cases where a word or two is clearly missing from a sentence, or where superfluous words were accidentally left in the text. Also, the publishers have apparently dispensed with separate versions for the American and British markets, as this was clearly edited only in British English. Generally, that didn't present a problem for me as I understand most of the more common British terms, but I'll admit I did have to search the Internet for the meaning of some. American readers who do not frequently converse with British folks may struggle with that aspect of the book, or may think there are even more editing errors (i.e. living in versus living on a street).

While I was disappointed overall, I did appreciate that the characters' story lines were wrapped up at the end of the series.
0Comment| 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 27, 2013
I'm one of these readers who once I get into an author: e.g, Alan Furst, Stella Rimington, Henning Mankell, John Lawton, Phillip Kerr, etc,I must read all of their books and have read all of the books in this series starting back way when with Zoo Station. I liked this book, but felt that it didn't have the dramatic plot twists I found in the earlier books in the series. However, the thing that bothered me the most about this book was the innumerable typos -- I lost track of how many errors appeared in this book, but there were many words left out (mostly contractions) and words that just didn't fit in (e.g., shoulder when it should have been soldier)
I wondered if others had the same reaction -- one or two okay, but I found all of these errors highly disconcerting.
22 comments| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 14, 2015
These series of books pprovides and excellent look a the world (Germany in particular) from just before the atart of World War II right into teh resuling Cold War. The characters are well drawn and always interesting. There is plenty of romance, suspense, politics and geography of europe a the time. Masaryk Station was a good solid ending to the series, I will miss it.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on August 15, 2013
I am a great fan of David Downing's "Station" Series. I read them all and I loved everything about them - from the feeling of life in Berlin before the war to the characters who were all superbly drawn. The relationship between Russell and his 1/2 German son who must figure out how he can be a good German boy and have an English father is most touching. I also loved the intelligent actress girlfriend who must come to terms with taking on propaganda roles just to have a job. And I haven't even mentioned the exciting and most intriguing spy plots. Perfect pictures of pre-war Germany and wartime Berlin. This book is the final chapter, the war is over, the cold war is beginning and most of the story takes place in Eastern Europe. I liked it very much but I have the feeling it can not be read alone. So I give this book 5 stars, IF you've read the previous books.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse