I must say I have enjoyed this series (which I recommend reading in order) so far. This is the third and continues an examination of Germany during World War II as seen through the eyes of Russell, an American journalist, who is tied to Germany by his girlfriend, Effie, and his German-born son.
You get a real sense of the claustrophobia people must felt as they became hemmed in by bombing and the repressiveness of the regime, constantly having to watch what you say, who you say it to, and who might overhear you.
Downing is very skillful in showing elements of the Third Reich’s control. For example, Russell stops to purchase a copy of the Beobachter in which he reads that Ernst Udet, WW I ace and big Luftwaffe general had been killed testing a new fighter plane. Thinking that was a bit strange I utilized the wonderful feature of my Kindle and clicking on Udet’s name read the piece on Udet in the Wikipedia only to learn that Udet had committed suicide. So I figured Downing had erred. Just a few pages later, however, at a press briefing, he uses a question from another reporter to point to the suicide (“Does the administration have any comment on the rumor that Udet had committed suicide?”) The truth is outed as well as the ministry’s attempts to hide it.
Russell is a journalist, after all, and in his attempts to discover what’s really happening on the eastern front, he cultivates a locomotive engineer. Some of the important detail that’s revealed I had not learned by reading the standard discussions of the Nazi failure in the Russian winter. For example, Russian tenders carried a larger supply of water, so their water tanks were further apart making it too far for German engines and the steam pipes were built around the boiler rather than on the outside as with German engines, so they didn't freeze. These all provided clues for Russell as to why the war in the east had bogged down.
Some people have complained about the ending. It’s a series. Get over it, people. I can’t wait to start the 4th. As I noted above, read them in order.