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Diary of a Dead Man on Leave

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  48 ratings  ·  11 reviews
From bestselling author David Downing, master of historical espionage, comes a heart-wrenching depiction of Germany in the days leading up to World War II and the difficult choices of one man of conviction.

In April 1938, a man calling himself Josef Hofmann arrives at a boarding house in Hamm, Germany, and lets a room from the widow who owns it. Fifty years later, Walter Ge
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Soho Crime
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4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  48 ratings  ·  11 reviews

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Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
The exception that makes the dirge mood pile of current mounds of WWII era books look and read like the pap of sentimentality tracts which most of them are.

IMHO, no one does the 20 years before Hitler within Germany as David Downing. This one isn't as Berlin identified as the Station books, nor is it as complex for length and intersects; but it's very nearly a 5 star book nevertheless. It's a full 4.5 stars.

It's just the right length. Also holds one of those "afterwards" epilogue reviews as the
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
1938 Nazi Germany through the eyes of a Communist?
German born Josef (not his real name) arrives in small town Germany on behalf of the Communist Party’s Comintern (a real thing which I have only just learned). He has been sent to seek out and recruit other Communists to fight the Nazi regime.
As much as I’m aware this is fiction (or is it?) the writing is such that I had the feeling I was reading non-fiction.
Josef finds rooms in a boarding house run by a German woman with two sons and an elderly
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
Obligatory disclaimer: I won a pre-release copy of this book in a giveaway here on Goodreads.

This novel is presented as sort of an espionage story, and published by a crime fiction imprint, but it isn't really either. The protagonist is, of course, a spy, and there are many crimes (according to the laws of Nazi Germany) committed, but really it's mostly a drama set in 1938 Germany, whose protagonist happens to be a spy. It's pretty good, once you get used to this.

There is, curiously, sort of a Y
Tonstant Weader
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it
“Dead man on leave” is another name for an undercover Soviet spy. They don’t expect to live long lives as they live at risk of exposure at any moment. Josef Hofmann was such a man. Born in Germany, he was a fervent communist who was recruited as a spy years earlier and worked undercover in North and South America before returning to Germany as the Nazis were consolidating power. He moves into a boarding house and slowly into the lives of the family, drawn in by the intelligence and admiration of ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii, spy-thriller
I love this author! I have read all his "Station" books and this one lives up to those. A novel vehicle is employed - as a diary- for the story too. The protagonist, a German, is sent to a town in Eastern Germany to gather information for his bosses in Moscow. The long aim is to determine if certain railway workers are committed enough to Communist beliefs to set up a cell. This is what Josef does all over the world. He settles in a boarding house at his destination Hamm. The house is run by a w ...more
John Walker
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In 1938 a stranger shows up in Hamm, Germany under the name of Josef Hofmann, who is returning to his home town, looking for work in Hitler's Germany. In fact he is an agent of Comintern, a Soviet agency. His mission is near impossible, set up a communist resistance movement to sabotage rail lines of the Reich, before a war starts.
Finding a home with a family named Gersdorff he finds himself getting deeply involved with the family, especially the family's twelve year old son Walter, who lost his
Jill Meyer
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it
British author David Downing is the author of two series - one set in WW2 and the other set pre-WW1. I loved the first series - the "Berlin Train Station" (though the Prague station was stuck in there) - but didn't care for the second - the "Jack McColl" series. Now Downing returns with a standalone novel, "Diary of a Dead Man on Leave", set in pre-WW2 Germany. I don't think this is the start of another series.

"Diary" is the diary of a Communist agent - Josef Hofmann - who has resettled in 1938
Ann Repetto
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: downing
His best by far. I would have given it five stars but sometimes the historical background bogged me down. Not always a fast or easy read. But very satisfying. One of the best books I've read in a while.
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating Journey

A diary unearthed from the ruins..
The diary finding its way back to light the way for one of the survivors and this very interesting window into past history.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, it’s outside my usual genre for sure! It was well written, but not a subject I’m familiar with. I ended up looking several things on my phone while reading it so it was a slow read for me. But I liked the characters and it had a satisfying ending!
Joseph Dubonnet
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Apr 20, 2019
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Apr 03, 2019
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Apr 17, 2019
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Apr 18, 2019
Michael Staples
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Apr 19, 2019
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
David Downing writes thoughtfully and carefully, as usual, about the lead-up to World War II, this time from a quite different perspective than his earlier novels. His depiction of a man sent on a near-impossible (or is it?) mission as the world goes from grey to black around him is lightened by the main character learning to love again, this time a family that holds out hope for all he still believes. For he is torn between his world-weary cynicism and his not-quite-suppressed emotions and read ...more
Bill Berger
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Jan 12, 2019
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Kerry Wells
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Apr 08, 2019
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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.