With the Russian advancing on the burned out husk of Berlin, what little was left after the Allies had bombed it to hell, young Paul made his way back into town to try to shed his German uniform so as not be recognized as a German soldier, while at the same time avoiding marauding gangs of let over SS who were rounding up and shooting deserters.
His father, John Russell, who had fled Germany for the United States at the beginning of the war, abandoning his wife and young son to avoid his own arrest, has come back in into Berlin as part of the Press Corps and is trying to arrive ahead of the troops hoping that his son, and former girlfriend Effi have somehow miraculously survived the war.
Effi, has survived well enough, harboring fugitives, mainly Jews, as they made their escapes out of Germany, but has been arrested as the surrender of Berlin is inevitable. Along with a young orphaned girl, Rosa, the two barely escaped with their lives from the camp as the commandant decided to not kill off the remaining Jews in hope to curry favor with the conquerors.
The path of these three individuals is steadily drawn together in this suspenseful World War II yarn skillfully woven by Downing on the brink of the final days before Hitler’s death. The details of the layout of the town and its surrounding countryside lead the reader to a greater overall knowledge base and draw a fine photograph of the war-torn city on the verge of collapse. Downing does a fine job of creating suspense above the already stress-filled carnage that the war has created and shares with the reader the constant threat of annihilation each survivor of the war felt on a continual basis.