cover image Union Station

Union Station

David Downing. Soho Crime, $27.95 (408p) ISBN 978-1-64129-357-0

The sluggish eighth thriller in Downing’s Station series featuring journalist John Russell (after Wedding Station) sees the former spy and his wife, actor Effi Koenen, settling down in McCarthy-era Los Angeles after fleeing Europe with their adopted daughter, Rosa. When the family notices they’re being followed, Russell wonders if the surveillance is connected to the book he’s writing about American companies that worked with the Nazis during the war. Or, perhaps his archnemesis, Laverentiy Beria, has sent Soviet agents to finish him and his family off? Disquieted, Russell and Effi opt to return to Berlin for a film festival where Effi is being honored, only to stumble onto a potential answer to their stateside dilemma: old enemies have not taken kindly to Russell’s latest project, and he must revisit his past as a double agent for the Soviets and the Americans to ensure his family’s safety. Downing interweaves the main plot with the story of Gerhard Ströhm, a member of the East German Central Committee who watches in despair as the post-Stalin Soviet power struggle threatens to destroy his dream of German socialism. The novel’s early sections drag, with little incident or character development to speak of, and though the action picks up considerably in the second half, this installment never quite reaches the level of previous entries. It’s a disappointment. (Feb.)