By 1939, Anglo-American journalist John Russell has spent 15 years in Berlin, where his German-born son lives. He writes human-interest pieces for British and American papers, avoiding the investigative journalism that could get him deported. But as war approaches, he faces the prospect of having to leave his son and his longtime girlfriend.
Then, an acquaintance from his communist days approaches him to do some work for the Soviets. Russell is reluctant but ultimately unable to resist. He becomes involved in other dangerous activities, helping a Jewish family and an idealistic American reporter. When the British and the Nazis notice his involvement with the Soviets, Russell is dragged into the world of warring intelligence services.
©2008 David Downing; (P)2009 Audible Ltd
A reviewer's got to do what a reviewer's got to do
I am an avid reader of the Bernie Gunther saga ( by Philip Kerr) which takes mostly place in the pre-war Nazi Germany. Same atmosphere , same background as in Zoo Station, but all this is depicted with a brilliance that David Downing sadly lacks. While Philip Kerr can leverage on this extremely dramatic environment to add intensity and force to the story plot, Downing writes a mousy story set out in a depressing background.
Looking forward the next Bernie's book.....
"Well plotted and absorbing story"
David Downing has written four books set in Nazi Germany, featuring jounalist John Russell. this is the first in the series. All are very well written, and capture brilliantly the paranoia of what life must have been like, and the constant compromises one had to make to survive. Although low key, the book is superbly plotted with interlocking stories and builds up to a tense finale.
Superb narration by John Prebble greatly enhances enjoyment of the book.
A very very good book that portrays the horrors of pre war Germany and Hitlers persecution of the Jews, while the rest of Germany carries on as normal.
First book by this author I have listened too and look forward to his other books.
Up to now going of the star ratings of all books I have read I have enjoyed all the books and been introduced to many different authors
"Berlin before the outbreak of World War 2"
This is a very interesting and very well written book that has completely captured my interest. The central character is a veteran English journalist John Russell, living and working in Berlin as part of the press corps in 1939 - he was previously married to a German and has a son Paul, who is to all intents a young German. The storyline vividly brings to life the poisonous atmosphere in Berlin the year tat war breaks out - with the persecution of the Jews and other sections of society, and the helplessness of these people in the face of oppression under Nazism. The story really brings to life the grim streets and the reality of what it must have been like in these times.
I find myself going on long walks with the dog to hear what is happening next with this enthralling story, as he is drawn into a complex web working for the Russians, the Germans and the British
"Good Thriller with Interesting Setting"
Set in pre-war Nazy Germany the thriller unfolds with good tension and detail. Seems to capture the mood convincinly. Leaves scope for follow-on books.
Found it an interesting companion read to "Fatherland" by Robert Harris and "The Reader" by Bernhard Schlink - both set in post-war Germany.
A good listen in its own right.
What is it about pre-war Berlin? Having devoured Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther Berlin Noir series I was delighted to be able to return to the scene of the crime but with another new, complex protagonist in the form of English journalist John Russell, torn between loyalties to his country of birth, his communist past and his German son with his estranged wife, not to mention his glamorous girlfriend. Manipulated by all sides and becoming a triple agent he struggles to save the fate of a Jewish family in the harsh reality of the Nazi state.
"A better-than-average wartime thriller."
I have to admit that when I downloaded this I didn't realise that it was part of a series. I did enjoy it and found some of the scenes chilling enough that they have stuck in my mind. The characters are interesting and it makes a change to see 1930's Germany through the eyes of an English person who has a profound love for the country. I haven't picked out any of the other books though which must mean I wasn't thoroughly gripped but I would still call it an above-average listen.
"Wonderful series of books"
This is a wonderful series of books however only books 1,2 and 6 are available on Audible, so if you want to follow the whole series it would be best to get hard copies instead.
I enjoyed this enormously, found the characters believable and loved the whole insight into what life might have been like in Nazi Germany. I was carried along with the plot and desperate for them to get out the secret. Marvellous, would recommend unhesitatingly.
Good start to a series of three books by the same author and narrator. John Russell's character and dilemmas are believable. It prompted the further purchase of the other two.
"Ah! pre war Berlin"
Great story, enjoyed the plot and it brought back fond memories of Berlin for me.
I look forward to the second story in the series.
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