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
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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