Downing's anticlimactic sixth and final John Russell thriller (after 2012's Lehrter Station) opens with a horrific scene: one night in the winter of 1948, two Russians abduct two German sisters and drive them to a grand house outside Berlin, where one sister is shot dead, the other raped. Meanwhile, Russell is in Trieste, helping the Americans interrogate possible war criminals, while his wife, Effi, is in Berlin, working as an actress and raising their 11-year-old adopted daughter, Rosa, whose parents were killed during the war. Their parallel stories unfold with Downing's characteristically solid prose and exhaustive knowledge of post-WWII Europe. There's plenty of intrigue, but not nearly enough action until Russell interviews a Russian, a self-described technician with cinematic expertise, who claims to have a film of the German girl's murder. The pace of the book accelerates and generates some palpable suspense that features the Prague railway station of the title. Agent: Charlie Viney, Viney Agency. (June)
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.”
"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."
"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."
"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."
"The book is a wonderful introduction to the Berlin Blockade, told through an exciting story with likeable characters."
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."
“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.”
The sixth novel in the John Russell series (after Lehrter Station) opens in 1948 with postwar Berlin and Eastern Europe in disarray. The Soviets are trying to force the three Allied powers out of Berlin, seize power in Prague, and control Marshall Tito in Yugoslavia. John Russell's situation is just as complex: The Brits and the Americans think he's their double agent, working against the Soviets while pretending otherwise, and the Soviets think the reverse. But Russell is working only for himself and family. Posing as a journalist, he carries out missions in Trieste, Belgrade, and Prague, where a film of a top Soviet official killing a young girl promises to liberate both Russell and his Soviet control, Yevgeny Shchepkin, from their masters. Meanwhile, Russell's wife, Effi, an actress, faces her own challenges. VERDICT 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.—Ron Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson
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. Named, as with the five books preceding in his series, for a continental European train station, Downing's latest finds hero--or antihero, for he's of a John Le Carré cast of dubious servant--John Russell struggling to keep from being found out. He's a double agent, you see, working for both Joseph Stalin and Harry S. Truman in the fraught year of 1948, and there are plenty of people gunning for him. Ostensibly a journalist, Russell has a talent for getting people to open up to him, a talent that may prove his undoing. The station in question is in Prague on the way to the Balkans, where some particularly unpleasant opponents of the rising Tito regime ("they had routinely committed atrocities the Nazis would have shrunk from") are doing particularly unpleasant things. Of course, the Soviets are intriguing against Tito, too, as is the CIA, which makes for some particularly unlikely bedfellows as the story progresses. Russell isn't necessarily likable, but he's certainly believable, as are his motives--chief among them keeping his beloved Effi, a German actress, and their child alive and well. Downing writes with a sure grasp of the way bad situations become worse ("Oh, shit, Russell thought, a psychopath with an identity crisis"); he's a master of heightened tension and the sweat-bedewed upper lip, and he shares with Le Carré a cynical sense that no matter how things turn out, the wrong people will have carried the day. 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. Will Russell want to face another narrow scrape? By every evidence, this ends the series--but Downing seems to leave room for another adventure. Stay tuned.