by David Downing
Review by Linda Marie Schumacher
Soho Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569476345
Date: 01 May 2010 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Do you want a glimpse of World War II Germany? Stettin Station, by David Downing, brings 1941 Berlin to us. It is a great read for World War II fictions lovers.
Stettin Station is the third in the series about John Russell, an American journalist in Berlin during World War II. In 1941, Germany has been in the war a while, Berlin is seeing shortages, and the United States has not entered the war. All the foreign journalists know that soon they will need to leave Berlin and head home. The big question is, “When?” The foreign journalists attend the daily press briefings from the German government and often wonder what the real truth is.
Russell has done assorted low-level espionage operations over the course of the three novels, and he has managed a position where he shares info between the Germans and the Americans. Each one knows about the other, so it is an interesting arrangement. Russell is British by birth, but through one of his previous operations, arranged to get an American passport and change his citizenship. He was previously married to a German woman and has a German son. Even though he does not want to leave them, he knows he will soon have to leave his German girlfriend and his son.
David Downing's novels are not heavy on plot, but that is not his real intent. Russell and his girlfriend Effi have decided to join the case against the Nazis, but not overtly. They are also sympathetic to the Jews in Berlin. Russell helps the underground here and there. They have discovered that trains full of Jews are leaving Berlin, but nobody knows where they are going. Since we have the advantage of knowing what has happened since, we know that this is shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into the war.
Much of the story is the journalists speculating about what will happen. Of course, we know. Davis Downing's novels are a glimpse at the human side of the war. What are the average Germans thinking? What are the Jews thinking? The truth we know from history is that Germany is struggling. The Russian winter is brutal and Germany has trouble getting supplies to the troops. One thing that touched me is that the women of Berlin were asked to donate their fur coats to send to the troops to keep them warm. Although it is a silly image to picture soldiers running around in minks and sables, the real image is that the men were freezing. That is touching regardless of which side you are on.
I highly recommend Stettin Station. I have read all three of the novels in the series for Gumshoe Review, and I can't wait to read the next.