City of Shadows
  • City of Shadows
  • City of Shadows

City of Shadows

4.4 43
by Ariana Franklin

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A cultured city scarred by war. . . . An eastern émigré with scars and secrets of her own. . . . A young woman claiming to be a Russian grand duchess. . . . A brazen killer, as vicious as he is clever. . . . A detective driven by decency and the desire for justice.

. . . A nightmare political movement steadily gaining power. . . .

This is 1922 Berlin

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A cultured city scarred by war. . . . An eastern émigré with scars and secrets of her own. . . . A young woman claiming to be a Russian grand duchess. . . . A brazen killer, as vicious as he is clever. . . . A detective driven by decency and the desire for justice.

. . . A nightmare political movement steadily gaining power. . . .

This is 1922 Berlin.

One of the troubled city's growing number of refugees, Esther Solomonova survives by working as secretary to the charming, unscrupulous cabaret owner "Prince" Nick, and she's being drawn against her will into his scheme to pass a young asylum patient off as Anastasia, the last surviving heir to the murdered czar of all Russia. But their found "princess," Anna Anderson, fears that she's being hunted—and this may turn out to be more than paranoia when innocent people all around her begin to die.

Editorial Reviews

Philippa Stockley
Enter Inspector Schmidt. Against the smoke of escalating Nazi brutality, Schmidt tries to resolve the riddle of the six-week assassin, while Berlin's impending nightmare closes around him and Solomonova. Like Gorky Park , another story big on romance and location, there is a lot to enjoy in this well-researched, atmospheric novel.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
British author Franklin (the pseudonym of a veteran historical fiction writer) makes the most of an original premise in this engrossing thriller that opens in 1922 Berlin. The German government is in crisis, inflation is staggering, anti-Semitism is rife, citizens are starving and Hitler has begun his rise to power. Horribly scarred Esther Solonomova works as a secretary for fake Russian nobleman Prince Nick, the owner of several Berlin nightclubs (think Cabaret) catering to the rich, the foreign and the deviant. Nick finds an inmate in a local asylum who claims to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, sole survivor of the slaughter of Russia's royal family. Prince Nick renames the inmate Anna Anderson, installs her in an apartment with Esther and sets in motion plans to get his hands on the money and jewels that Anna will claim as the heir to the Russian throne. But a mysterious Nazi is trying to murder Anna, and those near her begin to die. Franklin deftly orchestrates her characters on and off the world's stage, building suspense to a dramatic, surprising finish. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
As Berlin struggles under the challenges of a post-World War I world, secretary Esther Solomonova finds herself caught up in her boss's scheme-to authenticate young asylum patient Anna Anderson's claims that she is the Grand Duchess Anastasia and survivor of the Bolshevik massacre of the Romanov family. But as acquaintances of the would-be royal begin turning up dead, Esther is left to wonder if proving her identity is the least of Anna's problems. British author Franklin's novel effectively blends history and suspense with a light touch of romance. The pace effectively mirrors the social and political upheaval that took place in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, turning up the tension in the plot as the Nazis rise to power. Franklin's characterization is strong and believable-Esther is especially likable. She is plucky and clever, broadening the book's appeal to fans of crime, historical fiction, romance, and women's fiction. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Readers interested in this period may also want to read Faye Kellerman's Straight into Darkness, which is set in 1929 Munich.-Ed.]-Amy Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Murder mystery meets historical enigma in pre-Nazi Era Berlin. Franklin's historical thriller flows from the crossover point between two populations in flux: the Germans of the Weimar Republic and a surge of Russian emigres-rich whites, poor servants, scarred Jews-fleeing the Bolsheviks. Using extensive research, she evokes the hectic, Cabaret-esque mood of 1920s Berlin and the growing appeal to the Germans of Hitler's brand of aggressive nationalism, in the wake of the hyper-inflation and shame arising from defeat in World War I. Two questions drive the plot: Could one of the Czar's daughters have survived the massacre of the Russian royal family at Ekaterinburg? And who is the hulking murderer slaughtering women in the German capital? Prince Nick Potrovskov, a wheeler-dealer club owner and currency speculator, rescues a frightened, identity-less woman, who might be Anastasia, Princess of all the Russias, from the Berlin insane asylum and resettles her under the name Anna Anderson in an apartment with two companions, Nicky's world-weary Jewish secretary Esther and an ex-Romanov servant-turned-stripper, Natalya. Anna is terrified of a man she claims is stalking her, maybe a Cheka Communist operative. When Esther is attacked, then Natalya killed, Police Inspector Schmidt takes up the case, simultaneously tracing the criminal to Hitler's Brownshirts and falling in love with Esther. The irregularly shaped and paced story wraps up a decade later as Hitler comes to power. If Anna's past and future circumstances remain hung about with question marks, Germany's do not. Franklin, stirring a strange pot of romance, violence, sardonic humor and self-fulfilling prophecy, is most successful withscenes between her wise-cracking lovers. Anna and Esther have an audience with Adolf but the big finale is when the real Romanov steps forward. Entertaining enough when not stating the historically obvious.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.97(d)

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City of Shadows

A Novel of Suspense
By Ariana Franklin

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Ariana Franklin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060817267

Chapter One

Berlin, May 1, 1922


"What?" She tore off her Dictaphone headset, made a mark on a notepad, and went next door to his office.

He was sitting with his chair turned to the window that looked down onto the floor of his nightclub.

It was a fine nightclub, the Green Hat, one of the largest and most exclusive in Berlin. He'd hired Kandinsky to paint the walls -- "Russian scenes," he'd told him. "I want Old Russia" -- and been disappointed. "It's blobs," he'd said when he saw the result.

"It's wonderful," Esther had told him. And it was.

But his Russia hadn't consisted of blobs, so he'd insisted on lining the walls with huge stuffed brown bears and putting ribboned kokoshniks on the heads of the cigarette girls and hiring waiters who could squat-dance. "So they know this is a piece of Old Russia," he'd said.

"You're not supposed to say, 'What?' " he said now. "You're supposed to say, 'Yes, Your Highness.' " He was in a good mood.

"I'm busy. I'm translating your instructions to M. Alpert." She paused. "Are you sure you want to put them in a letter?"

"Why not?"

"Suppose the French police raid his office and find it?"

Prince Nick distrusted telephoneswitchboards, in case his competitors were bribing the operators to listen in, and since he spoke only Russian and German, she handled most of his foreign correspondence, which, she supposed, made her an accessory to corruption, tax evasion, not to mention fraud, all over Europe. But it was a job; she hadn't been able to get another.

"They won't. He's got the gendarmerie in his pocket." He blew out a redolent smoke ring. "And I've got the Polizei in mine."

His pockets were weighed down with them. His other cabaret clubs were popular with the high-rankers because he kept them discreet; politicians, judges, police chiefs, could cavort in privacy -- and did. Lists of members and their sexual preferences were kept under lock and key. There was a price, of course: they had to keep Prince Nick from prosecution -- they did that, too.

The police on the beat sold him information, usually about any vagrant good-looking young men and women who'd be likely recruits for his clubs. "I want them cheap, and I want them grateful," he used to say. He interviewed them himself. Nearly all came cheap, and most were grateful; working for Prince Nick was better than walking the streets.

In her case she'd had the choice of going on the streets or jumping into the Spree, and of the two she preferred the look of the Spree. It was the rabbi of the Moabit synagogue who'd suggested she apply to Prince Nick for work. The Jews knew of him because, for a price, he could get papers for those wanting to emigrate.

Papers -- the Wandering Jew's eternal bugbear. But if you could afford Nick's, you could go to the U.S. embassy in the Tiergarten and get an immigration visa for America. "Go see this Prince Nick, Esther," Rabbi Smoleskin had said. "A crook, yes, but a fair crook. And a Russian like you, so maybe he'll give you a job."

"With a name like Solomonova? And with my face?"

"Brains you got. Languages. A brave heart. Who cares for pretty?"

Prince Nick did; his clubs ran on pretty. He'd taken one look at her and opened his mouth to say sorry, but . . .

She hadn't given him the chance. "I speak English, French, German, and Italian well," she told him in Russian. "I can get by in Polish and Yiddish and Greek. I can type, I do shorthand and bookkeeping. They say you're an international businessman -- you need me."

Most of which was true. Not the shorthand, but she could learn.

"Oh, and Latin," she'd said, "I'm good at Latin."

"Always handy in cabaret clubs, Latin," he'd said, and she knew then that, if she could get him over the hurdle of her Jewishness, she'd have the job.

"How'd you get the scar?" he asked.

"Long time ago. In a pogrom."

"A Jew, then." In Old Russia pogroms happened to Jews.

"A Jew," she said.

"With an expensive education?" In Old Russia pogroms happened to poor Jews.

"My father was well-off. I had a mam'zelle and a tutor."

"What did your father do?"

"He was a banker."

"Yeah? So how'd you get mixed up in a pogrom?"

"Are you hiring me or not?"

He hired her, which confirmed that he was no more a Russian nobleman than Rabbi Smoleskin. Prerevolution Russia had been about the only country in the world where persecution of Jews was part of the constitution, and she'd never met one of its aristocrats who wasn't anti-Semitic.

Who he really was, where he came from, she didn't know even now. There was a slight slant to his eyes and a beautiful olive sheen to his skin that suggested Tartar, but he professed to be Russian Orthodox and made much of the estates he'd lost to the Bolsheviks. It didn't matter anyway; they were both frauds. And in a Germany that had lost the war, was losing the peace and its currency and, very nearly, its mind, it was only men like him who were making money.

His office had two windows, neither of them giving onto the outdoors. One looked down onto the floor of the club, two stories below, empty this morning. The other, which was small and had a sliding shutter, gave him a view of the large and illegal gaming room next door. Set into one wall was a safe like a miniature Fort Knox. Her own office, through a connecting door, was small and windowless, and she worked in it for a pittance.

He was in fine fettle today, smoking a cigar with his feet up on his desk, hair so sleek it might have been painted on, thirtyish, good-looking -- and as ersatz as the sign on his door and the name on his monogrammed writing paper: prince nicolai potrovskov.


Excerpted from City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin Copyright © 2006 by Ariana Franklin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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