I do not know how I discovered David Downing’s Zoo Station, but boy am I glad I did. This novel, the first of a series, is set in pre-WWII Germany and neighboring countries. There is high caliber tension on every page.
John Russell is a British freelance journalist and former Communist sympathizer living in Berlin. The story opens a short time before New Year’s Eve 1938. John’s mother is American, his father is English, his ex-wife is German, and his twelve year old son is confused. John has a lady friend who is a budding star of stage and screen.
John is approached by a member of the Russian NKVD (Secret Police) to write a series of articles explaining the “good” things Germany is doing, for which he will be well-paid. He is able to get his literary agent in England to sell the stories elsewhere as well. The Gestapo gets wind of the stories and “asks” Russell to submit the stories to them before John sends them to the Russians. Then the British Embassy requests the same “courtesy.” John believes these stories are being used as propaganda in advance of a Russian-German treaty.
John’s neighbor is an American journalist who stumbles into major scandalous story about the Nazis. After the neighbor “commits suicide” in a subway station, Russell realizes he needs to follow through on this story. Another acquaintance, at the U.S Embassy, introduces John to a Jewish doctor and his family as an English tutor for the teenage daughters. You can imagine how this going to end up.
Once the Russians have their hooks into Russell, they ask him to become a courier. Every place he goes (Danzig, Hamburg, Poznan, et al) John thinks he under scrutiny by the Gestapo and/or the Russians. Paranoia is not a bad thing to have in Nazi Germany!
This story rivals the of WWII spy stories both nonfiction and fiction. I cannot urge you strongly enough to GET THIS BOOK!
GO! BUY! READ!
—Jim Harris, retired book sales rep
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