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Zoo Station by David Downing
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Zoo Station (original 2000; edition 2011)

by David Downing

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5112319,905 (3.82)193
Member:ChelleBearss
Title:Zoo Station
Authors:David Downing
Info:Soho Crime (2011), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library, 2013
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

Zoo Station by David Downing (2000)

  1. 10
    The Sleepwalkers by Paul Grossman (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Family men caught in the uncertainties of Nazi Berlin with intrigue and mysteries thrown in. Sleepwalkers is set in 1933; Zoo Station in 1939.
  2. 00
    Night Soldiers by Alan Furst (majkia)
    majkia: similar books in that they focus on ordinary people swept up into becoming spies.
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» See also 193 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
This is the first book that I have read entirely in 2015.

Amazon had the whole series as a deal of the day for 99p each. I’d had this one, the first in the series, for a little while so I dipped in to see if the rest were worth buying. I got hooked and spent a fiver!

I bought this one as an amazon recommendation. I’ve been buying first hand accounts and histories of the SOE for decades. I picked up the pace a bit a year ago when doing background reading for the short story Hunting Nazis which I used for the end of module on A215. I also read cold war spy fiction too. So amazon recommended me Downing’s series. The link is fairly obvious.

This is about an Anglo American journalist living in Berlin in 1939 where his German ex wife and kid live too. He has a girlfriend too. The book starts on 31 Dec 1938 just as things are darkening. The story is as much commentary on how the war comes and why ordinary people didn’t protest as it is about how John Russell is drawn into working for various intelligence agencies.

The story is paced very well and has that car crash quality about it. You know everything is going to hell but you want to keep on reading to find out how. I hadn’t expected a number of the twists in the story and I did wonder if it was going to end with him in jail, I knew it couldn’t be worse because there were five more books.

This was very enjoyable and I finished it in a few days. It sneaked in ahead of some other books in the reading order, although I’m resisting the next one until I’ve managed a couple of paper books, per my 2015 resolution. ( )
  jmkemp | Jul 5, 2016 |
John Russell, a successful Anglo-American journalist, lives and works in Germany with deep ties in the community. He has a son being raised as a member of Hitler's youth group by his German ex-wife and he has a German girlfriend. Consequently, he avoids the kind of writing which could get him evicted from Nazi Germany as long as possible.

Unfortunately for Russell, events and international agendas will over take him as the Soviets, English and Germans all demand his assistance in spying on each other. What makes this a fine and satisfying novel is his successful juggling act using each of his adversaries to manipulate the other and gain his ultimate goals. ( )
  cfk | Aug 4, 2015 |
John Russell, a British journalist who was once an active communist, is now trying to keep a safe, low profile in Nazi Germany, writing non-controversial articles about life in Germany. He has a German ex-wife and a son with her, and a German girl friend. But he finds it hard to avoid acting according to his conscious, starting from the very beginning of the book, when he happens upon some SA soldiers harassing a kindertransport group trying to leave Danzig and intervenes.
This book is much more interested in the mood of the time and place than it is with a linear plot line. Its mostly about the everyday life in a city that is on the brink of war and greater disaster. It is similar in this way to Alan Furst's recent book, Midnight in Europe, which I also greatly enjoyed reading. ( )
  BillPilgrim | Jul 14, 2015 |
Altogether a decent enough page turner. I have some friends who just love this author and the John Russell series and they pore over old Baedeckers and maps of Berlin etc., delighting whenever they find evidence of the many (!!!) street names and landmarks. Downing certainly does know how to pad: while most paragraphs, and many pages, fail to carry the plot forward in any appreciable degree, he is able to insert something that adds a bit to the reader's store of not uninteresting facts. As for larger meanings, if anyone is in doubt that, on the whole, nazis were rotters and being a good father is a good thing, this book might be of assistance. ( )
  jburlinson | Apr 26, 2015 |
A quite satisfying novel. John Russell is an English journalist in Berlin prior to the onset of World War II. He is no idealist, and with a girlfriend who is German and a son who is in the Hitler Youth he feels ties to Germany, but his conscience gets the best of him when Nazi brutality hits those close to him.

This is an atmospheric novel where the gloom of the Nazi shadow is palpable, but it is not as dense as some of Alan Furst's books, and Downing knows how to ratchet the tension up to sweaty-palm levels.

The first book in a series, I'm eager to pick up the next one. ( )
  kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
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David Downingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There were two hours left of 1938.
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British journalist
Living in Nazi Berlin
Spies reluctantly
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When an old acquaintance turns up at his hotel, John Russell's life begins to change. Gradually he is persuaded by a combination of threats and financial need, and appeals to his conscience to become a spy - first for the Soviet Union and then, simultaneously, for the British.… (more)

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