Lehrter Station (John Russell, #5)Lehrter Station by David Downing

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With the fifth in the series we’re in the immediate post-war period, six months after Berlin fell to the Soviets John & Effi are back. Having escaped to London with the surviving family members John is blackmailed by the Soviets into returning in the guise of a double agent.

As with the previous books the real central character is Berlin and its people. The theme is one of devastation, both human and physical. John & Effi both get involved in finding out what happened to people they knew, and the friends of the survivors. It’s mainly upbeat, although sprinkled with tragedy as one would expect.

The book evokes the chaos following the end of the war very well, and the overturning of tables. The ‘victims of fascism’ are exalted and on double rations, the nazis are trying to hide and avoid retribution. As yet, no-one really feels safe, but things are getting better.

We also see the start of the cold war here. John is working for both American and Soviet intelligence services, although more for himself and Schepkin than for either power. The whole situation is deliberately murky, and Berlin isn’t formally divided, the four powers govern it jointly. This creates room for administrative pressure, and allows wandering between zones without fuss. This is used to good effect to add tension and obstacles to the story.

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