*Downing, David. Masaryk Station: A John Russell Thriller. Soho Crime. June 2013. 336p. ISBN 978-1-616952235. $ 26.95. Fiction
The sixth novel in the John Russell series (after Lehrter Station) opens in 1948 with postwar Berlin and Eastern Europe in disarray. The Soviets are trying to force the three Allied powers out of Berlin, seize power in Prague, and control Marshall Tito in Yugoslavia. John Russell’s situation is just as complex: The Brits and the Americans think he’s their double agent, working against the Soviets while pretending otherwise, and the Soviets think the reverse. But Russell is working only for himself and family. Posing as a journalist, he carries out missions in Trieste, Belgrade, and Prague, where a film of a top Soviet official killing a young girl promises to liberate both Russell and his Soviet control, Yevgeny Shchepkin, from their masters. Meanwhile, Russell’s wife, Effi, an actress, faces her own challenges. VERDICT Downing’s outstanding evocation of the times (as masterlyl as that found in Alan Furst's novels or Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series), thematic complexity (as rich as that of John Le Carré), and the wide assortment of fully rendered characters provide as much or more pleasure than the plot, where disparate threads are tied together in satisfying and unexpected ways.