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Zoo Station by David Downing

Zoo Station (original 2000; edition 2011)

by David Downing

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4892220,952 (3.83)191
Title:Zoo Station
Authors:David Downing
Info:Soho Crime (2011), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library, 2013

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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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
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 |
The first book in an ongoing series featuring an English journalist, John Russell, living and working in pre-WWII Germany. He has a young son, Paul, from a failed marriage to a German woman. Like all boys his age, Paul is a member of the Hitler Youth but he still gets to see him on a regular basis. Russell is also very involved with Effi, a German actress and with everything pointing towards a forthcoming war he doesn't want to provoke the ire of the administration which would lose him his job and to face probable deportation which would cause him to lose contact with those he loves. That's why he's loath to get involved when an American colleague asks for his help on a story that may shed light on the Nazi brutality but as he's only acting as an interpreter for an interview with a nurse who has some vital information he reluctantly agrees. Later, when his colleague is found dead by apparent suicide, Russell's conscience is pricked into taking action of his own. He's also been approached by an agent of the Russian NKVD to write a series of positive articles on the Nazi regime to help soften up the Soviet people to accept a non-aggression pact with Germany. As he'll probably need all the help he can get to remain in the country in future Russell agrees to write the articles. As if this wasn't enough, Russell also teaches English and he's just been asked to help a Jewish family as they prepare to emigrate to England. What could possibly go wrong?

This is very much an opening book for a series with the first half of this story more involved with setting the scene and atmosphere of the times and laying out the groundwork for future instalments. Despite the slow build-up it's not a dull read as there was enough going on to keep me enthralled in the action. Very similar in this respect to Alan Furst's series of espionage novels which I've also enjoyed immensely (the ones I've read so far that is). It's a very well written character study set amidst rising tensions with a credible lead who has to make some tough decisions in order to keep his head above water and still be able to remain in the place he wants to be. Definitely a series that I intend to continue with in the future. ( )
  AHS-Wolfy | Dec 27, 2014 |
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There were two hours left of 1938.
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Haiku summary
British journalist
Living in Nazi Berlin
Spies reluctantly

No descriptions found.

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)

(summary from another edition)

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