Zoo Station

Narrated by: Simon Prebble
Series: John Russell, Book 1
Length: 10 hrs and 1 min
4 out of 5 stars (426 ratings)

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

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, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"This is a quiet but suspenseful tale of an ordinary man living in a dangerous place during a dangerous time who finds within himself the strength to do heroic acts." ( Booklist)

Featured Article: 10 Thrilling Spy Book Series for Espionage Lovers


Action, thrills, and edge-of-your-seat moments are things you can usually count on from spy book series. And having them narrated to you, with all the breathless intensity the plots require, makes espionage books a must in audiobook format. If you’re looking for some adventure in your life via catching some spies—or being a spy!—here are 10 thrilling espionage books for your spy-loving heart.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    178
  • 4 Stars
    176
  • 3 Stars
    61
  • 2 Stars
    7
  • 1 Stars
    4

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    214
  • 4 Stars
    127
  • 3 Stars
    30
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    2

Story

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    153
  • 4 Stars
    154
  • 3 Stars
    52
  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    2

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Review for the whole series

Once you listen to one book of this series, you will have to listen to them all. One is missing from audible, so sadly you will need to skip it or buy and read it in print. This series is everything you hope a ww2 novel would be. Sophisticated writing, full characters and very good sense of place and time. I was pleased that the undercover plots were not at all far fetched and with just one exception, totally plausible. I loved the fact that the novels are complete with in themselves, but the successive books resolve past plots more completely. Very satisfying espionage interwoven with the everyday life of good and bad people in Berlin during the worst times of the war.
Great read/listen, you are never disappointed with Simon Pebble as narrator. Enjoy like potato chips, just one will not be enough.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

As Good as Alan Furst

Having read all of Alan Furst's wonderfully cinematic novels, I was especially glad to discover David Downing's. Downing mines the same territory as Furst. His descriptions of time and place may not match Furst's brilliance, but his characters are more developed and his novels have a real plot. And he has, blessedly, none of the embarrassingly described sex scenes that Furst seems to think are erotic. Simon Prebble is a splendid reader.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Thoughtful Noir Spy Thriller

Zoo Station is the first in a four-book series by David Downing, set in pre-WWII Germany against the background of the rise of Hitler. Like authors Philip Kerr and Jonathan Rabb, Downing has accomplished meticulous research which he seamlessly weaves into his plot to create an eerie noir atmosphere, made all the more realistic and frightening because we know how it turns out. The main character in the series is English/American reporter John Russell, who has lived in Germany for many years, has had two families, and is caught up in the horror of what is happening around him. Using his position as a foreign correspondent, he becomes a spy of sorts for the good guys. I was totally gripped by this compelling tale, which proceeds relentlessly, but slowly, forward. I have already read the second John Russell book, Silesian Station, and am about to start on the third, Stettin Station. To put it mildly, I’m hooked. The reader was as good as they get.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Superb books, superbly read

Downing's Berlin trilogy are very well written (unlike most novels in the genre) and are much more than thrillers. The books paint a compelling picture of immediate pre-war and early-war Berlin and Germany, of the geopolitics of the time, and of the growing violence of the Nazi regime, towards Jews and and others - all through an exciting and plausible plot with interesting and believable characters. As another review noted, the subject matter can be depressing, but that is of the time. These books are real literature, far better written than,say, Kerr's novels. Simon Prebble is, as always, fantastic. I loved these books.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

It's not Bond or Bourne...know that going in

There's no action that I can remember in this book, but extremely suspenseful. Think Hitchcock. Downing is in no hurry, so settle in for a good story with good characters, but if you are looking for action you will be disappointed. If you know that going in, you can settle in and enjoy it for what it is.As this is the first in the series there is a lot of backstory to his situation. Very suspenseful conclusion Extremely believable premise. Narration was fantastic, but slow. I listened at 1.25 speed and it flowed better. I never do that but in this case it worked well. Overall, as long as you're not looking for car explosions or gunfights you will enjoy.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Berlin just prewar. Nazis, atmosphere

Where does Zoo Station rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Among top 10

What was one of the most memorable moments of Zoo Station?

The suicide of a desperate man whose wife had been refused care at the hospital where she was a nurse for 20 years.

Have you listened to any of Simon Prebble’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Same. Excellent.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

See above

Any additional comments?

This is a tense, taut book which successfully recreates the oppressive atmosphere of pre-WW II Berlin. The Nazi thuggery, the blatant antisemitism, the cowering populace, half invested and half-repelled by what has happened to Germany, the ever-present Gestapo. The delicate dance that the hero must do to evade punishment, yet remain tied to basic human values.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Rather Slow and Tedious

I would hardly call this a great book in the line of suspense writers of the period like John Le. Carre or Alan Furst. David Downing is not in their league.

Actually I am not sure this is even a suspense, espionage thriller. it is more a portrait of life in Berlin in the early part of 1939 than anything else. Yes our hero does get involved with spying for the NKVD and turning over plans to the Brits - but those seem more like side plots compared wtih tales of daily life in Berlin. There is the obligatory jewish family that John Russel has to help and who fall victim to the Gestapo - but there is not really much tension or excitement about that. The only really close call our main protagonist has comes at the very end of the book and even that is not that central to the story about Russel's relationship with his mistress, and son.

If you want an espionage novel, this is not the book for you. If you want a story about life and the trials and tribulations of living in Nazi Germany in 1939 this is a good read. However, I doubt if I will read another in the series. I prefer Alan Furst.

The only saving grace is that Simon Prebble, one of the all time great readers is narrating this book. A lesser reader and the book would fall flat. Simon Prebble really saves this book.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent.

Really nicely written fictional historic novel set in pre war Germany. Not as taut as Robert Harris fatherland but if you like the genre it’s worth it. And the hero is not as embittered as usual and actually has a decent relationship!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Outstanding WWII spy thriller.

Recommended by The Watch podcast for its March 2017 book discussion. I want to Amazon to buy the book, but due to demand, it was temporarily out of stock. Then I had to decide: Kindle or Audible. I don't listen to a lot of recorded books, but that will change after this. The production was first-class and Simon Prebble's reading was thoroughly enjoyable. And the story, enough vivid description to but me into prewar Europe without getting in the way of the briskly paced, crackling good story. May have delivered he most taut, suspenseful ending if any book I've "read" in ages. I look forward to diving deeper into David Downing's John Russell series.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • J.
  • 12-07-14

In the vain of Alan Furst

If you like Alan Furst stories you'll take to this series. Set in pre-war Germany when Brits were still free to move about and spy on Nazis. Not as opaque as Furst can be, but very much one's Everyman Brit who comes caught up in British and Soviet spy rings. As always, how can you go wrong with Prebble doing the reading.

1 person found this helpful