Berlin, early 1948: The city, still occupied by the four Allied powers, still largely in ruins, has become the cockpit of a new Cold War, and as spring unfolds its German inhabitants live in fear of the Soviets enforcing a Western withdrawal. Here, as elsewhere in Europe, 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.
John Russell works for both Stalin’s NKVD and the newly-created CIA. He does as little for either as he can safely get away with, and between the tawdry tasks they set him - assessing dubious defectors in Trieste, running a spy ring in a Berlin VD clinic, rescuing ex-Nazis who might prove useful from Czechoslovakia - he seeks a way to cut himself loose.
His partner Effi Koenen has an easier time, starring in a popular radio series and looking after their adopted daughter Rosa, until a woman she helped save in the War turns up on her doorstep, and admits to a child she left behind all those years before, a child now trapped behind the new iron curtain.
©2013 David Downing (P)2013 AudioGO
I love David Downing! this is the 6th audible book of his i purchased. The narrator is so miserable you can hardly follow the story. Simon Prebble made Downing's words come alive. In fact, the listener is riveted. This narrator should be fired from all future readings. his voice is droning, and i finally figured out why my Iphone has settings for increasing the speed at which you listen...If I didn't love these stories so much and was so interested in the lives of the characters, I would have given up long ago
I've worked my way through the John Russel series, by David Downing, and enjoyed all of them. I don't understand why the whole series isn't available. I bought the paperback of the missing book so I could maintain the story line. I suppose the series can be read out of order, but it is really more of a single long novel and more enjoyable to read in order. This book did a nice job of summing up and closing the series. If you've enjoyed the story and characters in these somewhat slow paced, but well written books, I think you could enjoy this one.
But,,,,(and it's a significant but), the reader is nearly awful. The book is full of mispronunciations. I can ignore a lot of that, but the reader sometimes pronounces the proper name "Thomas" in the ordinary way, (tomas), but then, inexplicably will pronounce the Th, (thomas, as in Thermos), Again and again. It's really annoying.
So, if you can find this book performed by another reader, buy that version. If you can't, well, the story is a good solid David Downing story and important for closure to those of us who follow a series, so you'll just have to try to turn a deaf ear to the narrator, and do your best to enjoy the writing.
The narrator. I was tempted to give up.
His diction and pronunciation are poor.
Not the best work in the series, but once you're hooked!
I can't imagine a narrator less interested in the material he was reading than this one. He made almost no effort to differentiate among the characters with voice, inflection, accent, dynamics -- i.e., acting. Nor did he even try to properly pronounce the myriad of foreign names and phrases sprinkled throughout the book.I've read all of David Downing's excellent John Russell novels that depict the intrigues, human and political, that formed, deformed, and reformed the German experience before, during, and after World War II. This latest installment stands tall among them.
The narrator, Michael Healy, has been severely criticized by other listeners. I could find fault with his performance too. His pronunciation of German words is terrible, which is forgivable in a foreigner, though I can't imagine how he gets "Luther" out of "Lothar" and not only because the "h" is not pronounced in that context in German. But he is certainly not "droning," as one reviewer put it. I, too, was somewhat put off at the beginning, but I think that was only because his style was different from the earlier, excellent narrators. Or maybe it just took him a while to get into the story. In any case, he did get into it and made the story interesting.
Regarding the story itself, it becomes clear that Russell (and probably Downing too) is an ardent socialist. As a free market capitalist sharply opposed to socialism, I was offended by the moral equivalency drawn between Soviets and Americans. Although that comes out to some degree in earlier novels, it is the principal theme of this one. That was ideologically offensive to me, but don't let it turn you off. If you are not a fan of socialism already, you learn a lot about how those of that persuasion think and, most importantly, how that played into mid-20th century history.
a different narrator
Story is great but I couldn't finish it because the narration was so poor
George Guidall, Simon Preble, William Kitchens
Disappointment because of the narration. I've read all the preceding books and will now buy this one if it's available
The books in this series by Davis Downing are all excellent; this current one, apparently the last in the series, is no exception to the excellent rating.
Terrible phrasing, flat affect, awful pronunciation of German and Italian names, unlike the reader of all the previous novels in this series, Simon Prebble, who is a uniformly wonderful narrator.
Yes, until I heard the reader; after that, listening became a chore.
It is truly a shame that the previously excellent series has been ruined by an inferior reader - what idiot made this decision to change?
I have listened to all of the 6 books in this series and I have struggled with this one because of the narrator. I have looked forward to all of the books, but have been so put off by this reader, I had difficulty finishing this one. I hope future books return to previous readers, or at least change from this one or I will skip the audio book and read it myself. The story line is great, I love the WWII setting. These novels are a must for another perspective on WWII.
"having loved David Downing's previous books..."
...I thought I'd go against the previous reviews and get the book anyway because it can't be as bad as the narrator was painted...it is...and then some. So far I've stopped it twice and read other books...the narrator is appalling, it must've been done on the cheap this...he reads it monotone, like he didn't bother to proof read it the first time, it's awful, I'm so disappointed. I will be staying away from him in future...and Mr Downing, if you use him again, I'll be staying away from you too!
"OK Story, poor performance"
The narration is poor. Do not get a book narrated by him. It is as though he is narrating a book but doesn't really want to. No effort was made on the German pronunciation, the flow and sense of the sentences was not maintained making it hard to listen to and there were multiple words mispronounced, almost as though they were unknown to the reader but he couldn't be bothered to find out what they were.
The story is OK, being the sixth in the series but also the weakest of the series.
Don't let this one put you off the first three books in the series - Zoo, Stettin and Silesian stations, which are well narrated and good stories. Potsdam station - the best of the series I think, is unfortunately not available at the moment.
"Good Plot. Awful narration."
Having enjoyed Zoo, Silesian and Stettin stations on audio, I was doubly disappointed a) by two missing volumes: Pottsdam and Lehrter stations and b) by one of the worst audion narrations I've ever heard. I didn't trouble to check the narrator but it sounds as though English is not his first language. Perhaps someone thought this might lend the novel authenticity... or perhaps the narrator came cheap. Either way, a dreadful disappointment after the first 3 audios... made worse by the gap of two novels. Who plans this stuff? Seriously...
"Brilliant book spoiled by a dreadful narrator!"
I've listened to the audiobooks of the first 3 books in this series and read the 4th and 5th (as they don't seem to be available on audio as yet). I have thoroughly enjoyed all but this last one. The story-lines are excellent - informative, atmospheric and gripping; real page-turners. Masaryk Station, however, was totally spoiled for me by the dire narration. The modulation and inflection were dreadful and pronunciation (of English, German and Russian) was little,short of pitiful. I can't believe that the director / producer could be satisfied with producing such a dreadful audiobook. I was so disappointed that I shall be reading the printed version for myself!
Similar to the Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr - all excellent stories. All these, however, had competent narrators!
Intrigue in post-war Berlin
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