Zoo Station journeys to 1939 Berlin

From Soho Crime
From Soho Crime

Zoo Station by David Downing; first published in 2007 by Soho Press Inc.; Kindle price currently $1.99 (USD), paperback edition, list $9.99 (USD). Book 1 of a 6-book series.

Zoo Station introduces John Russell, a journalist whose policy of appeasing the Nazis in 1939 mirrors the policy of the politicians whose attempts to avoid a world war would soon fail.

Russell, a 40-year-old who freelances for newspapers around the world, has lost the youthful idealism that once led him to join the Communist Party, fight fascists in Spain, and write hard news without worrying about whom it might offend. Now, he plays it safe so he can remain in Berlin, where his young son, Paul, lives with his ex-wife and her second husband.

But nothing is safe in Nazi Germany, and Russell soon finds himself caught between his old comrades in Russia, his connections at the British Embassy and the Gestapo. The danger deepens when a fellow journalist enlists Russell’s help, then plunges to his death from the platform at the Zoo Station subway while gathering evidence of a Nazi plan to euthanize German children.

Soho Press provided an advanced reading copy of Zoo Station as part of its reading challenge celebrating 25 years of publishing international crime fiction, and I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller. Russell’s conflict between compromise and integrity while living under Nazi rule really reflects the conflict that paralyzed the politicians who tried throughout the 1930s. The result is a taut thriller that provides insights to a real struggle, as well as the fictional one.

Russell proves to be an honorable hero, an ordinary man who undertakes the extraordinary when faced with dangerous times in a dangerous place. I’m glad this was only the first book in a series, because I want to read more. If you like espionage thrillers, especially those set in Nazi Germany, I think you will, too.

NOTE: Sis received a complimentary copy of Zoo Station from Soho Press Inc. via NetGalley for her participation in the publisher’s 25th anniversary reading challenge.  Sis is grateful for the opportunity.

Description:  By 1939, Anglo-American journalist John Russell has spent over a decade in Berlin. He writes human-interest pieces for British and American papers, avoiding the investigative journalism that could get him deported. But as World War II approaches, he faces having to leave his son as well as his girlfriend of several years, a beautiful German starlet. When an acquaintance from his old communist days approaches him to do some work for the Soviets, Russell is reluctant, but he is unable to resist the offer. He becomes involved in other dangerous activities, helping a Jewish family and a determined young American reporter. When the British and the Nazis notice his involvement with the Soviets, Russell is dragged into the murky world of warring intelligence services.

Soho Crime has been publishing atmospheric crime fiction set all over the world for the last 25 years. The publisher’s popular series take readers to France, China, England, Laos, Northern Ireland, Australia, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Italy, Denmark, and Palestine, among other locales, with entire range of crime fiction—detective fiction, police procedurals, thrillers, espionage novels, revenge novels, stories of thieves, assassins, and underworld mob bosses.