Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book Review: City of Shadows

Title City of Shadows: A Novel of Suspense
Author Ariana Franklin
Rating *****
Tags mystery, stand alone, berlin, anastasia, nazis, hitler 

A colleague introduced me to Ariana Franklin's work, and I've been grateful ever since. She is an astounding writer. Each of her books in the Mistress of the Art of Death series has been excellent, so when I found she has a standalone mystery it was inevitable that I would read it.

City of Shadows is set in Berlin. The first part is set in 1923, the second part in 1932-33, ending on the day that Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.

In 1923 Berlin is suffering hyperinflation. People are starving, unable to find work. Esther Solomonoa, a Jew who has suffered through a pogrom in Russia, is glad to have a job as secretary to a Russian man who claims to be a prince and owns several nightclubs among other rather shady businesses. Nick hears of a woman in an insane asylum claiming to be Grand Duchess Anastasia. He rescues her from the asylum, and sets her and Esther up in an apartment with another girl, Natalya, who had worked for the czar and can train Anna to become Anastasia. Nick expects to earn a share of Anastasia's inheritance. Anna is afraid, saying the Russian secret service is out to assassinate her, and when Natalya is murdered Esther begins to fear she is right. A Berlin police investigator, Seigfried Schmidt, becomes convinced as well, but is unable to convince his superiors. He is assigned to other cases, and there things lie until 9 years later, when he is re-assigned to Berlin and gets back together with Esther at the news that Nick has been murdered.

The book starts out slowly, but builds into something magnificent. The plot has a number of twists that all work brilliantly, and the final major twist is quite a surprise. There are a few too many coincidences scattered through the plot, but the power of whats being unfurled is too enthralling for the reader to care. The characters of Esther and Schmidt are excellent. But what makes the book so outstanding is the picture of Berlin during two periods of great historical significance, and how the author uses the history to build a story and uses the story to make the history alive.

Whenever Ariana Franklin publishes a book, I'll rush out and buy it. She is an amazing talent.

Publication Harper Paperbacks (2007), Paperback, 422 pages
Publication date 2007
ISBN 0060817275 / 9780060817275

Posted via web from reannon's posterous

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