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Potsdam Station (John Russell #4)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,716 Ratings  ·  151 Reviews
In April 1945, Hitler’s Reich is on the verge of extinction. Assaulted by Allied bombs and Soviet shells, ruled by Nazis with nothing to lose, Berlin has become the most dangerous place on earth.
John Russell’s son Paul is stationed on the Eastern Front with the German Army, awaiting the Soviets’ final onslaught. In Berlin, Russell’s girlfriend Effi has been living in disg
ebook, 304 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Soho Crime (first published July 6th 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Timothy Hallinan
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this, his fourth novel set in and around Berlin as Hitler comes to power and then falls, the huge continuing story David Downing began with ZOO STATION comes to an end, or at least a major pausing point.

In the chaotic, still murderous final days of Hitler's Reich, Downing follows the converging narratives of his main characters, the journalist John Russell; his actress-lover, Effi Koenen; and Russell's son from a former marriage, Paul, who's now in the German Army as they all move toward Berl
The 4th instalment sees us jump forward four years to 1945 & paints a very vivid picture of a war torn Berlin entering the final throes of conflict (April). The parting of ways of our trio occurred jus after Germany declared war on the USA in December 1941 & the first few chapters tell of their current situation with Effi still in disguise in central Berlin working for the resistance, Paul has come of age & is in the Wehrmacht whilst John Russell is working for an American newspaper ...more
Gerald Sinstadt
It may seem churlish to resist such energy devoted to research but David Downing's recreation of 1930s and 40s Berlin ultimately palls. No vintage map seems to have been left unconsulted so that every journey takes place street by street. No doubt, transported back five or six decades, we would recognise every building, every landmark, but that in itself is not sufficient reason to open the book. The early pages of Potsdam Station suggest that the hideous threats to the journalist John Russell a ...more

Well, Mr. Downing has left the door open to a sequel to this wonderful series, and I hope he walks through it.

This fourth book in the John Russell saga is set in the last, bloody days of Berlin's fate in WWII, with the Russians closing in from the East, successive waves of bombing from the Russians and western Allies each day and then relentless artillery pounding, until nearly every street was reduced to unpredictable rubble.

In this chaos, John's girlfriend Effi, unbeknownst to him, has survive
May 23, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the first three books in this series, but my first instinct was not to bother with this one. That was probably correct. For hardcore Downing fans, this book has much of what made the first three offerings so attractive: good historical detail, sympathetic characters, some suspense. Unfortunately, this book is somewhat incoherent, and one feels that at this point Downing is just cashing in on his franchise. The story crosscuts among three plotlines, unnecessarily confusing the narrativ ...more
Elaine Tomasso
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - plot wise not a lot really happens but the atmosphere of suspicion and fear is pervasive and you live the adventure with John and Effi. It is also very informative on life in Berlin at the time. I would say, however, to new readers that it will be a more rewarding read if you have read the preceding novels in the series (Zoo Station & Silesian Station).
Excellent tale set in the John russell world; I have no idea if there is more planned - there is lots of scope for taht but this book could be a fitting ending since after all it ends with downfall of the Reich where all the stories took part; here we have a three layered story - John Russell and his oddyssey to get in Berlin of late April 1945, which he manages only by persuading the NKVD he can help them filch nuclear secrets from the German ahead of the Americans and the British; Effi's story ...more
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thrillers, war, a-kindle
This was excellent. Set against the backdrop of the final days of Hitler's Germany and the brutal annihilation of Berlin and it's people by the Soviet army on the ground and by the bombing of all the Allies from the air, the author skilfully brings together the three stories of now war correspondent John Russell, who is seeking to return to Berlin to find his family before the Soviets do, John's partner Effi who he was forced to leave behind in Berlin when he had to flee following the US's belat ...more
Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All David Downing’s books have been excellent. 'Potsdam Station,' book four (of six) in the ‘Station’ series, continues that trend - and then some.

There did seem to be a bit of a leap between ‘Stettin Station’ and ‘Potsdam,' some four years, in the story-timeline. It was a little unsettling at the start and I had to re-convince myself a few times that I hadn’t missed a book. I hadn’t, I eventually realised - and so relaxed. I couldn’t really make up my mind (totally) why he did that. Perhaps he
Steve Smits
This World War II novel centers around three related lives that have been separated by the tumult in and around war time Berlin. John Russell is an Englishman who resided in Germany for many years prior to the outbreak of the war with Russia. Russell, a journalist who earlier in his life became a Communist, escaped from Germany in 1941, leaving behind his girlfriend Effi (described as a well-known movie star before the war) and his son, Paul. Effi chose not to leave, instead involving herself in ...more
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies, ww-ii
# 4 in the John Russell series. At the end of volume 3 in this excellent series, Russell had escaped to Sweden and Effi had returned to Berlin, hiding in plain sight disguised as an old woman by using her make-up and acting skills. Germany had just declared war on America and the Gestapo sought both of them. Fast forward to April, 1945. Paul, John’s son, is sixty miles from Berlin on the eastern front as part of a Panzerfaust unit as the eastern front shrinks, Effi is surviving but also working ...more
Cheryl A
Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This lastest installment of Downing's John Russell series has the journalist traveling to Soviet Russia in an attempt to ride into Berlin with the conquering Red Army. He hopes to use his previous "favours" to the Russians as means to early entry into Berlin so that he can find his girlfriend Effi, a former German film star, who stayed behind so that John could escape in 1941.

John's attempts to gain creditials through regular channels meet with no success, but he is taken by the NKVD, the Soviet
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A spy story, that is a love story, that is a story of parenthood and has an happy ending, which is the best thing of the plot in the end IMHO. The charachters are well known as this is the 4th installation in the series, but as a read alone novel they miss part of their background, plus they always miss each other for 5 minutes, and end the end this was pretty boring. Best part was Berlin in 1945, short before the soviet army arrives to "free" the city. Even there, I think the author exagerrated ...more
Downing, David. POTSDAM STATION. (2011). ***.
This is the first book by this author that I’ve read. It’s the fourth in his series of historical suspense novels featuring his protagonists John Russell, a Britih journalist, and Effie, his girlfriend, a famous former film star. The time is 1945 and the setting is, primarily, Berlin, where the Soviet troops are rapidly advancing on the city. The story starts with John in Moscow, trying to negotiate permission for him to be in Berlin as the Soviet
Soho Press
Apr 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In POTSDAM STATION, John Russell, a British journalist, navigates the crumbling streets of Berlin in the last moments of WWII in an effort to be reunited with his girlfriend, Effi, and his son, Paul. John has been caught up in a web of espionage, trading favors with Soviet, British, American, and German intelligence in order to survive day by day in Berlin, and if he wants to get himself and his family through these dangerous days alive he has to call in some favors.

Meanwhile, Effi is caught up
Sep 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thriller about the struggle to survive in Berlin in April 1945 as the Red Army closes in. This is the 4th book in a series about British journalist John Russell who escaped from Berlin with the help of his girlfriend, Effi. Once a great film actress, Effi is now living in hiding because the Nazis believe she is a traitor. As the story opens she is helping to smuggle Jews out of Germany. John convinces the Soviets to help him reenter Berlin to help them get information from a German science ins ...more
Carla JFCL
I really enjoy historical fiction, especially WWII novels, and I thought this one was pretty good.

It's the 4th book in a series, and I haven't read the other three so I can't compare them. (I normally don't read series novels, but here is a good place for the FTC disclosure to say that I won this book in the Firstreads Giveaway contest.)

There was nothing very surprising about the plot; I pretty much knew how things were going to play out for the main characters. What I loved about the book, tho
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent close to the series. Unbelievably tense, I was on the edge of my seat for the entire book. This one really had you feeling as if you were wandering the broken and dangerous streets of Berlin, trying so very desperately to survive. The detail must be very real, as many of the descriptions were so very close to things my father told me about the end of the war.

Great book. Only caveat is I'd actually recommend the paper version vs Kindle. They really messed up the formatting on the elect
Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
I have really enjoyed the John Russell series for it's evocative atmosphere and attention to detail. My main criticism in Potsdam Station would be echoed by other reviewers in how much did people understand the power of the atomic bomb in May 1945 particularly a journalist.

The other rare mistake is this book mentions the street Clayallee which wasn't named as such until 1953 after the US Military governor of the US Zone of Occupation.
Sep 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fourth John Russell book. Previous book ended early in WW 2. This book covers the final assault of Berlin.
Would help if you had an idea of the layout of Berlin.
Tony Mac
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the 4th book in the John Russell series that I've been reading since it began with Zoo Station. All of them have been top-notch espionage thrillers with fine historical detail and believable characters you come to care about.

Previous books detailed the descent into war in a continuous period between 1939-41 but this one takes an abrupt leap forward into 1945 and the end game of the war as the Russians close in on Berlin. Presumably this is because book 3 ended with Russell having to flee
Mary Mack
This is the first book that I have read by David Downing, but this is not the first book in the series.

The story takes place in Berlin in 1945, the Nazi's are just about to lose the war. Russia, England, and the Americans are coming closer to Berlin. John Russell is a 45 year old English journalist who has worked for the the CIA, has a son who is in the German army, and a girlfriend, Effi, in Berlin. All are hoping that they survive long enough for the Americans to free Berlin, and they live in
Robert Scott
This JR novel occurs in many different locations with different starring characters. Keeping track of who is where is itself a mystery. It is the end of WWII and Russell is making every effort to get to Berlin to protect his fiance Effie and his son Paul from the Russian invaders. To do so he commits himself to be the 4th member of a Russian team to be air dropped into the Berlin exurbs and to be their guide. As in all such plans, everything is changed by the first contact with the enemy. Well w ...more
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a bit of a grim slog. A lot of the reviews grumble about how often Downing talks about meals and travel and whatnot, but I think it's those quotidian details that make the series interesting: it's about how normal life intersects with big, ugly, global problems. In this book, everyone is on the run, which makes for a very different episode in this series, but maybe not as strong. Also, as usual, it ends incredibly abruptly.
Stephanie Tanton
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book takes place during the days leading up to the Russian invasion of Germany during WWII.
The challenges the Berliners faced during this uncertain time are horrific. they suffered from little food, poor, if any shelter and an uncertainty of whether to remain loyal to the SS Troops patrolling the city or seek help from the Russians, whose army was raping Berlin women. A stunning look back at this time in history.
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, espionage
I've read all of the John Russell novels and have concluded that this one, Potsdam Station, is the best. I really enjoyed the way David Downing portrayed the horrors of war. I've consumed many of these kinds of books and most of them do not capture the utter senselessness of war while this one does.
Ronald Darbisi
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great series, by far, one of the most gripping novels on the fall of Berlin.
== The misery of Berlin’s last days of WWII ==

This was the 4th of Downing’s ‘Station’ WW II crime/thriller/spy novels that I have read. It involves the time period from April 6th to May 2nd, 1945. The locations are Berlin and Moscow. The journalist John Russell, who had to flee Berlin in 1941, has been to England and the U.S. lately he is marooned in neutral Sweden. He is increasingly worried about his girlfriend Effi and his son Paul who are back in Germany and he has lost touch with. He devise
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would actually rate this 3.5 Stars if I could. It is a decent novel of historical fiction which is a genre I favor, as is WWII history. I was especially interested in the setting of Berlin in the last days of the war, knowing as I do the historical details in some considerable detail, and wanting to read a personalized account of the human experience in those days, even though fictional.

I am somewhat familiar with the layout of Berlin having visited a few times, certainly the major landmarks a
First, this is not my favorite installment; but I have made the commitment to finish this series and I am hoping that the last two books are better than this one. After reading my first (and so far my only) Alan Furst book, this series showed up in my recommendations. I became interested because of the titles and because the action takes place in and around Berlin during wartime. Hmmm ...

I am still struggling with John Russell's character and the actions he takes throughout the series. Aside fro
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David Downing is the author of a political thriller, two alternative histories and a number of books on military and political history and other subjects as diverse as Neil Young and Russian Football.
More about David Downing...

Other Books in the Series

John Russell (6 books)
  • Zoo Station (John Russell, #1)
  • Silesian Station (John Russell, #2)
  • Stettin Station (John Russell, #3)
  • Lehrter Station (John Russell, #5)
  • Masaryk Station (John Russell, #6)

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