John Russell is living in Berlin on borrowed time. A resident of Berlin since the 1920s, he is a former Communist, former British subject, and present American citizen. That citizenship—his father was British, his mother American—has kept him in country since England declared war on Germany, but if Japan attacks America (as expected), and if Germany comes to Japan’s defense (as also expected), Russell’s U.S. passport will be a liability, rather than an asset.
Why would anyone want to remain in Nazi Germany during World War II? Russell’s career as a journalist is the ostensible answer. The real answer is his teenage son Paul and his actress girlfriend Effi Koenen. Berlin is home because they are his loved ones.
Over the years, in order to stay close to Effi and Paul, Russell has done favors for the intelligence services of the Soviet Union, England, America, and even Germany. (He was a double agent for the Soviets against the Nazis.) At present, he’s working for Admiral Wilhelm Canaris’ Abwehr. Working for the nationalist but anti-Nazi Canaris is better than working for the SD or the Gestapo, and so far, safer, but now Russell finds himself a pawn in the battle between Canaris and Himmler.
Needing a way out of Germany, and quick, Russell turns to the only group organized enough to effect an escape: the Communists. But he knows that the bill for doing so will come due some day. Will it be too high?
Stettin Station is the story of why Russell finds himself in such a parlous state, and how the Communists get him out. But there’s a heart-wrenching plot twist you won’t see coming, and when it comes, you’ll wonder whether all the effort put toward escape was really worth it.
I loved this novel, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have read the previous novels in the series. Start with Zoo Station if you haven’t, and work your way through the series.
David Downing, Stettin Station (New York: SoHo Crime, 2010).
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