Here at Berlin Noir Reviews, we
are pleased to be reviewing David Downing's Lehrter Station.
Not because the novel is a great read but because it is the last Berlin Noir
offering from Downing we will have to review. We hope.
For the record this is the fifth
installment of six in Downing's John Russell series. Here we find journalist
Russell living in England with his fiancé, German film actress Effi. The war's
over and they are breathing easy. Until the Soviets coerce Russell to work for
them (again) and the Americans get wind of it (again) and Russell is forced to
work for both of them (again) while trying to get out from under (again). Once
back in Berlin, Effi gets involved with what's left of the German film industry
(again) and the novel is split between these two storylines (again) as she
tries to find the mother of a Jewish girl she helped during the war.
Yes, Lehrter Station is
indistinguishable from the rest of the series. Same plot, same glacial pace,
same load of talk and endless description. Not much happens in Downing novels.
Oh, there's a quick build up at the end and a tacked on climax the reader has
long since stopped caring about. But in this novel, Downing decides to fill the
pages with a parade of characters from the previous novels who all come in have
their say then leave or die before the novel jumps to the next cameo.
Russell learns about the Jewish
refugees heading to Palestine, the black market, hiding Nazis, corrupt and
inept occupiers and how tough it is to recapture pre-war Berlin in the rubble
all while gathering information the US has compiled about the German Communist
Party and handing it over to the Soviets.
To his credit, Downing captures
the wide landscape of post-war Berlin and has clearly done his research before
attempting to capture the chaotic time following the end of the war. But this
is not a history book. It's a novel. And as a piece of entertainment, it's flat
out boring as hell. Hard to believe that such a rich historical landscape could
be rendered uninteresting but Downing pulls it off. The main problem here, as
can be seen at the start of this review, is that the plot of Lehrter
Station is as recycled as the hook in the titles of the other Russell
books. Same plot, different era. Downing proves that if you've read one you've
read them all. In the Russell series, only the dates and places change.
With a heartfelt sigh of relief, Berlin Noir Reviews says goodbye to David Downing and the John Russell series.