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
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.