JOHN RUSSELL WWII SPY THRILLERS
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
Literary espionage novels set in Berlin in the era just prior to and during WWII, following Anglo-American journalist John Russell.
“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.”
By 1939, Anglo-American journalist John Russell has spent over a decade in Berlin, where his son lives with his mother. He writes human-interest pieces for British and American papers, avoiding the investigative journalism that could get him deported. But as World War II approaches, he faces having to leave his son as well as his girlfriend of several years, a beautiful German starlet.
When an acquaintance from his old communist days approaches him to do some work for the Soviets, Russell is reluctant, but he is unable to resist the offer. He becomes involved in other dangerous activities, helping a Jewish family and a determined young American reporter. When the British and the Nazis notice his involvement with the Soviets, Russell is dragged into the murky world of warring intelligence services.
“Downing is brilliant at weaving history and fiction, and this plot, with its twists and turns—all under the terrible bombardment of Berlin and the Third Reich’s death throes—is as suspenseful as they come. The end, with another twist, is equally clever and unexpected. ”
—Toronto Globe and Mail
Summer, 1939. British journalist John Russell has just been granted American citizenship in exchange for agreeing to work for American intelligence when his girlfriend Effi is arrested by the Gestapo. Russell hoped his new nationality would let him safely stay in Berlin with Effi and his son, but now he’s being blackmailed. To free Effi, he must agree to work for the Nazis. They know he has Soviet connections and want him to pass on false intelligence. Russell consents but secretly offers his services to the Soviets instead.
It’s a good plan, but soon things become complicated. A Jewish girl has vanished, and Russell feels compelled to search for her. A woman from his past, a Communist, reappears, insisting he help her reconnect with the Soviets. Meanwhile, Europe lurches toward war, and he must follow the latest stories—to places where American intelligence assignments await him.
“Fans of the intelligent WWII thrillers of Alan Furst and Philip Kerr should enjoy Downing’s atmospheric and tension-filled third novel featuring Anglo-American journalist
John Russell . . . With strong vivid prose, the author maintains a high level of
suspense throughout, and makes the reader care about his leads.”
In the fall of 1941, Anglo-American journalist John Russell is still living in Berlin, tied to the increasingly alien city by his love for two Berliners: his fourteen-year-old son, Paul, and his longtime girlfriend, Effi. Forced to work for both German and American Intelligence, he’s searching for a way out of Germany. Can he escape and take Effi with him?
A New York Times Notable Book
“John Russell has always been in the thick of things in David Downing’s powerful historical novels set largely in Berlin . . . Downing provides no platform for debate in this unsentimental novel, leaving his hero to ponder the ethics of his pragmatic choices while surveying the ground level horrors to be seen in Berlin.”
—The New York Times Book Review
In April 1945, Hitler’s Reich is on the verge of extinction. Assaulted by Allied bombs and Soviet shells, ruled by Nazis with nothing to lose, Berlin has become the most dangerous place on earth.
John Russell’s son Paul is stationed on the Eastern Front with the German Army, awaiting the Soviets’ final onslaught. In Berlin, Russell’s girlfriend Effi has been living in disguise, helping fugitives to escape from Germany. With a Jewish orphan to care for, she’s trying to outlast the Nazis.
Russell hasn’t heard from either of them since fleeing Germany in 1941. He is desperate to find out if they’re alive and to protect them from the advancing Red Army. He flies to Moscow, seeking permission to enter Berlin with the Red Army as a journalist, but when the Soviet’s arrest him as a spy, things look bleak—until they find a use for him that has him parachuting into Berlin behind German lines.
"Powerfully and skillfully written, with constant suspense and sudden surprises of satisfaction, Lehrter Station is one of the vital 2012 books that I'd pack for a desert island—or a beach vacation, or a rainy weekend."
WWII has ended … But the danger has just begun for a spy caught between political superpowers.
Paris, November 1945. John Russell is walking home along the banks of the Seine on a cold and misty evening when Soviet agent Yevgeny Shchepkin falls into step alongside him. Shchepkin tells Russell that the American intelligence will soon be asking him to undertake some low grade espionage on their behalf—assessing the strains between different sections of the German Communist Party—and that Shchepkin’s own bosses in Moscow want him to accept the task and pass his findings on to them. He adds that refusal will put Russell’s livelihood and life at risk, but that once he has accepted it, he’ll find himself even further entangled in the Soviet net. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Shchepkin admits that his own survival now depends on his ability to utilize Russell. The only way out for the two of them is to make a deal with the Americans. If they can come up with something the Americans want or need badly enough, then perhaps Russell will be forgiven for handing German atomic secrets over to Moscow and Shchepkin might be offered the sort of sanctuary that also safeguards the lives of his wife and daughter in Moscow. Every decision Russell makes now is a dangerous one.
"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
—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
Berlin, 1948. Still occupied by the four Allied powers and largely in ruins, the city has become the cockpit of a new Cold War. The legacies of the war have become entangled in the new Soviet-American conflict, creating a world of bizarre and fleeting loyalties—a paradise for spies. As spring unfolds, a Western withdrawal looks increasingly likely. Berlin’s German inhabitants live in fear of the Soviet forces who occupy half the city, and whose legacy of violence has ripped apart many families.
John Russell works for both Stalin’s NKVD and the newly created CIA, trying his best to cut himself loose from both before his double-agency is discovered by either. As tensions between the great powers escalate, each passing day makes Russell’s position more treacherous. He and his Soviet liaison, Shchepkin, seek out one final operation—one piece of intelligence so damning it could silence the wrath of one nation and solicit the protection of the other. It will be the most dangerous task Russell has ever taken on, but one way or the other, it will be his last.