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Wednesday, February 4, 2015


A Review of David Downing's Masaryk Station


Reviewing the David Downing's John Russell novels is a confusing venture.  As each book has the same plot, the feeling of déjà vu can be discombobulating. Seems every time out, Russell is knocking around Berlin until someone: the US, the Russians, the Nazis coerces him into spying for them. What follows is a time-travelers travel guide to restaurants, sights and sounds of the past with a few Forrest Gump encounters thrown in for good measure.

Well, Masaryk Station is the second to last of these so I'm almost done with this rerun of a series.

This time out, it's 1948 and American journalist, John Russell, is
working for the CIA, US Counter Intelligence - all while delving into the Catholic church's involvement in smuggling people out of Eastern Europe, including Nazis. In the process he comes across a film which is damning to his Russian handlers and just might be his ticket to freedom once and for all. While this is all going on, Effi, Russell's love interest, gets a few adventures of her own. She's helping refugees, dodging the heave hand of the Soviets trying to influence her career (just as Goebbels did in the earlier novels) and filling up the pages with a storyline that has nothing to do with the main plot.

Once Russell has his assignment, he's off to record his meals and the ambience of the various places he visits. These are recounting in excruciating detail. Occasionally, something will occur to advance the plot but Downing's writing is so bland and dry, you've either dozed off by then or couldn't care less. Russell's goal, as always, is to get free of his handlers and he's willing to sacrifice the lives of others to achieve this.

Downing has racked up entries in the Berlin Noir arena but don't let that fool you. If you're determined to give the series of try, pick one at random as the plots are all the same. One should be enough for the curious.

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