In July 1939 Russell returns to Berlin as the newly-appointed Central European correspondent of an American newspaper. With his communist past, German son and English-American parentage he's the perfect catch for any of Europe's warring espionage services, and none will take no for an answer. Through the long Berlin summer, through trips to Prague, Warsaw and Moscow tracking Europe s descent into war, Russell seeks to satisfy his secret masters, protect his girlfriend Effi and his son Paul, and retain some sense of his fragile integrity. And if this wasn't difficult enough, a friend needs his help in finding the missing Jewish niece of an employee. With a whole continent headed for self-immolation, saving just one person shouldn t be so difficult...
In Downing's quiet sequel to Zoo Station, set mostly in Berlin in 1939, British journalist John Russell gets involved in multiple intrigues while working as an amateur spy for the intelligence services of assorted major powers. When Miriam Rosenfeld, a young Jewish woman dispatched from provincial Silesia by her Uncle Thomas, who's Russell's ex-brother-in-law, fails to arrive in Berlin, Thomas asks Russell to help find her. Meanwhile, the Nazis blackmail Russell into passing disinformation to the Soviets by arresting his actress girlfriend, Effi Koenen; he agrees to spy for the Americans in order to get a U.S. passport; and he offers to spy for the Russians if they'll help him leave Europe when the time comes. While these various narrative threads, in particular Rosenfeld's disappearance, do generate suspense, thriller fans should be prepared for a dearth of exciting action scenes. Full of period detail, this novel effectively captures life in the police state of Berlin on the brink of war.