Monday 3 May 2021



Synopsis/blurb ...

John Russell watches the Reichstag burn, but it's no scoop, even for a crime reporter. Four weeks after Hitler's accession, brownshirt mobs stalk the streets and the press prints what the Party tells it. Russell, a former communist with a British passport, should be packing his bags, but while family ties bind him. Meanwhile, his assignments draw him closer to the savage heart of the new regime -- and the story that only ends one way.

David Downing's Station series is one I've been meaning to try for a while, but have never quite made the time for in my reading. An invitation to read Wedding Station, a series prequel was too good an opportunity to turn down.

It's a fantastic book, which captures the mood of the time perfectly. Hitler has come to power and the divisions in German society are about to be laid bare. There's fear and apprehension from the communist opposition, versus a surge in confidence, optimism and a restoration of pride in Germany from his supporters. 

We see events of 1933 through the lens of John Russell, an English journalist based in Berlin. Russell is in a precarious situation. His marriage is over in all but name though he remains very close to his wife and his son. She is in a new relationship and the arrangements are attracting some attention. Divorce would jeopardise his ability to remain in the country. His former communist views, now renounced are hardly endearing to the new regime. Neither is his occupation. 

It's a fine line for Russell and his newspaper editor to tread. Criticism of the Nazis is unpatriotic. Clampdowns on press freedom is a given. Stories which might embarass the regime and its supporters are to be avoided, but neither does the newspaper/editor/Russell want to lose its integrity and become a puppet, even when the Nazi propaganda machine is feeding them obvious bull.

In the midst of this Russell investigates the death of a male prostitute, offers temporary sanctuary to a Communist fugitive and searches for a missing girl. All the while, keeping on the right side of the regime and maintaining the fiction of a normal life for the sake of his six year old son. 

Tense, claustrophobic, scary, horrific, gripping. It's fascinating seeing a country about to go to war with itself or at least a sizeable minority of its citizens, especially Jews and Communists; before obviously taking on the rest of Europe a bit further down the road.

Brilliant - setting, story, characters, pace, history lesson - all ticks in the box.

4.5 from 5 

Read- April, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 336
Source - review copy from publisher - Old Street Publishing
Format - paperback


  1. I've read an review copy also and several others by this very gifted author and my review is:-
    "Wedding Station (John Russell WW11 Spy Thriller Novel") written by David Downing and published in Hardcover by Soho Crime on 2nd March 2021. 336 pages ISBN-13 : 978-1641291071
    February 27, 1933, In this stunning prequel to the John Russell espionage novels, the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin is set ablaze. It's just a month after Hitler's inauguration as Chancellor of Germany, and the Nazis use the torching to justify a campaign of terror against their political opponents. John Russell's recent separation from his wife threatens his right to reside in Germany and any meaningful relationship with his six-year-old son, Paul. He has just secured work as a crime reporter for a Berlin newspaper, and the crimes which he has to report--the gruesome murder of a rent boy, the hit-and-run death of a professional genealogist, the suspicious disappearance of a Nazi-supporting celebrity fortune-teller--are increasingly entangled in the wider nightmare engulfing Germany.
    Each new investigation carries the risk of Russell's falling foul of the authorities, at a time when the rule of law has completely vanished, and the Nazis are running scores of pop-up detention centres, complete with torture chambers, in every corner of Berlin.

    I’ve read a number of his previous books and I’m glad he has gone back to the Station series with his protagonist John Russell an Englishman working in Nazi Germany. The descriptions and colour the author includes in his story makes it so gripping and the quality of his plotting and descriptions put it on almost a literary level.
    I’ve read, for review, his previous novels around WW1 with Jack McColl an undercover British intelligence agent selling motor cars in various locations. The author has done extensive period and geographical research and the very evocative atmosphere of 1933 Germany is reproduced very well for this reason.
    Wedding Station is a thoughtful, sensitive thriller, whose great strength is avoiding the cliches of the genre. David Downing concentrates on period detail rather than heroic violence, and his hero, Russell, is a decent functional man with a reasonable relationship with his son and ex. The minor characters in the books are also realistically portrayed. David Downing sensitively evokes Germany on the pre-war period, and shows the dangers of being Jewish in 30s Germany, and the tenseness of day to day life where a political joke or defeatist comment can result in denouncement to the German authorities. This is a very well written and carefully plotted book, which should be of particular interest to fans of John Le Carre and Alan Furst. Very strongly recommended.

    Terry Halligan

    1. Terry, thanks for stopping by and sharing your fantastic review. I've some good times ahead in the company of David Downing's work I think.

  2. This does sound fantastic, Col. That period of time - just as Hitler came to power - was such an unsettling time, and all sorts of opportunity there for plot, for layers of suspense, for... Sounds as though the characters are well-drawn, too, and reflect the times.

    1. Margot, it's definitely one where our tastes collide I think.

  3. I had to come check out your review of this after Margot mentioned it in a recent post. I have only read the first in this series. I suppose I could pick this one up too since it is a prequel. Very nice review.

    1. I think you would enjoy it Tracy, if you could make time. I want to read more from the series, as well as trying the Kerr-Gunther books.