Wedding Station (A John Russell WWII Spy Thriller)

Written by David Downing
Review by Kristen Hannum

In Wedding Station, a prequel to his John Russell Station espionage novels, author David Downing creates a time and place as real and nuanced as the news and world outside your door. You’ll want to read the entire series if you haven’t yet.

The novel begins on Feb. 27, 1933, the night the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin was set ablaze—a convenient encouragement for Nazi militia members to further attacks on communists. (“First they came for the socialists,” as Martin Niemöller wrote.) It’s John Russell’s job as a crime reporter to carefully cover the fire and other crimes. He often knows that writing the truth would get him killed and the paper shut down — a shutdown he and his editor both know is coming anyway. In addition, Russell, a British citizen, and his German wife have recently separated, endangering his right to remain in Berlin near his six-year-old son.

Tensions are high in the lead-up to the federal elections a week after the fire. The Nazis win 44% of the vote and take control. Russell, who loves not only his son, but also his adopted country, must grapple with the fact that so many Germans “had voted for a party that prided itself on its use of violence,” a party committed to policies of division and hate.

This is a timely, gripping and well-plotted novel that left me feeling sick about human nature. How easily fascism erases democracy. It was 13 years and 75 million dead before the German people again could freely vote. The small consolation is that individuals can resist and still act with love. Russell is a brave, likable everyman caught in a nightmare, knowing his instincts to help others may get him killed—and yet he still acts. Recommended.