This is the third book in Downing’s wartime thrillers about British journalist/spy John Russell. I would recommend reading the first two books before this one since what happened before has a large bearing on what happens in the last quarter of this one. Having read first two, Zoo Station and Silesian Station, I was disappointed by the lack of intensity in the first half of Stettin Station but the last half more than makes up for lack of drama at the beginning. However, the ending could have been more defined. I thought it was too open-ended as to what the prospects were for Jon and Effi. I would have liked to see them settled in their new circumstances, and known more about the plight of Paul, John’s son, the Abwehr’s Admiral Canaris, and Goebbel’s detective Kuzorra before putting the book back on the shelf. Presumably all questions are answered in Potsdam Station, which is timed at the end of the war, three and a half years later.
Downing describes well the environment of Berlin just prior to America’s involvement in the war. Although his birthplace was in England Russell had obtained an American passport because his mother was American and he committed himself to act as a go-between in the exchange of information for mutual benefit between the Abwehr and the CIA. Every American in this tale, including Russell, is prepared to leave Germany at a moment’s notice if war is declared. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour occurs at the end of the book and Germany jumps the gun by declaring war on the U.S.A.
The rationing and shortages, the blackouts, the bombings by the British, the implementation of the Final Solution to the Jewish problem, the breakdown of transportation and infrastructure, the suppression of free speech and the enforced media compliance to official edicts are all involved in making the narrative historically accurate. Russell is a pragmatist in every situation, taking the high road whenever he can but open to compromise and even the elimination of another if he is cornered. Loyal readers will enjoy getting to know Effi better. She is not only a pretty actress but a shrewd organizer and brave colleague. Russell’s son, Paul, lives with his mother and Nazi stepfather. His relationship with his father deteriorates because of his compulsory participation in the Hitlerjugend and his increasing loyalty to the Reich’s twisted version of truth and justice. The underhanded collaboration between American and German corporations for profit, circumventing officialdom, plays a major role in this book’s plotline.