Friday, July 02, 2010

Trainspotting with the Nazis

In January Magazine today, British author and critic Mike Ripley reviews Potsdam Station, the fourth World War II-era thriller by David Downing. Like the previous books, this one stars Anglo-American journalist John Russell, his actress girlfriend, Effi Koenen, and his son, Paul. Of Postdam’s captivating plot, Ripley writes:

Russell has not seen or been able to contact his beloved Effi or his estranged son for more than three years, but both are alive and still in Berlin, though far from safe: the teenage Paul serving in an anti-aircraft battery, Effi living under a false identity and now actively involved in the anti-Nazi resistance.

Once he learns that the Americans and British will leave the taking of Berlin to the Russians, Russell is frantic with worry, having no illusions about the treatment awaiting German prisoners and female civilians at the hands of their vengeful conquerors. He flies to Moscow in an attempt to have himself “embedded” (as we would now say) as a journalist with the advancing Soviet war machine, knowing that his request is something of a long shot. It is, but by striding into the offices of the NKVD and demanding to see his former Soviet “handler,” Russell wins his chance.

He will be allowed to enter Berlin, not with the Red Army but actually ahead of it, and to search for Effi and Paul, but only after he has helped a Soviet team secure scientific papers from a Nazi research center--highly secret documents which will help Russia’s atomic research. Therein lies another balancing act of conscience for Russell--providing, that is, he survives the parachute drop into enemy territory, Allied bombing, Russian shelling and the NKVD hit man with orders to leave no loose ends.
You’ll find the full review here.

No comments: