City of Shadows

( 46 )


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 ...

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City of Shadows

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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.

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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

  • ISBN-13: 9780060817275
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/6/2007
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 274,008
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Ariana Franklin is a former Fleet Street reporter who lives in Hertfordshire, England.

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Read an Excerpt

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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Reading Group Guide


1920s Berlin. The end of the Great War has left the once-proud city, along with much of Germany, in financial and psychological ruin, crippled by economic depression, rampant inflation and a looming sense of hopelessness and despair. In this turbulent era, when ensuring one's survival is the name of the game, a strong-willed Russian-Jewish émigré named Esther Solomonova finds herself enmeshed in Berlin's teeming underworld—the only place she can reliably find work. In the employ of corrupt Russian "Prince" Nicolai Potrovskov, Esther is dragged into an audacious moneymaking ploy: the "discovery" in a German asylum of the Russian grand duchess Anastasia, whom Prince Nick means to use as a conduit to the Romanov riches rumored to be waiting for the rightful heirs.

As City of Shadows unfolds, Esther is left to reluctantly watch over and steward the mysterious, mute and possibly crazy Anna Anderson, the "long-lost Grand Duchess." However, it soon becomes apparent that a shadowy killer is also pursuing the mystery woman, and Esther is tossed into a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse as the killer begins to pick off those close to her in increasingly brutal ways. Soon the quest to discover Anna's true identity, and why this killer is so bent on silencing her, hovers over every aspect of Esther's life. Set against the backdrop of what would soon become the madness of Nazi Germany, City of Shadows clearly evokes the fear and confusion of a terrible era—and brings together the mystery of Anastasia and the change in an angry and defeated nation.

Questions for Discussion

1. The entire book is told fromthe perspective of Esther and Inspector Schmidt. How do you think the story would have differed (if at all) if any of the other characters' perspectives had been used? Did you find Esther and Schmidt to be reliable, accurate narrators, especially as observers of the changing Germany around them?

2. The idea that people simply "want to believe" that the Grand Duchess Anastasia survived the execution of her family provides much of Prince Nick's justification for his scheme with Anna. Did you see this hope, this desire to believe in something so implausible, as a human virtue or a weakness? How does it compare with the rising public support for the National Socialist movement within the community at large?

3. Compare the supposedly deviant characters that populate Prince Nick's decadent Berlin to the fascist youths in the relatively "clean" SA movement growing in Germany. How does the author depict these two groups and what qualities seem to qualify as "moral" in this turbulent era? In what ways were these two groups similar to each other?

4. Consider the issue of post-war identity in this novel, both on a personal and national level. How does identity (and how it could be completely reshaped and reinvented in this era) influence, both for bad and for good, the actions of the individual characters in the book?

5. In the prologue of the book, we get a very brief glimpse of Anna and R.G.'s chance meeting at the Landwehr Canal. The devastating meeting of past and present in that one moment sets off the calamitous events that make up the rest of the book. What other examples of past-meeting-present occur throughout the book and what consequences result from these encounters?

6. What was your impression of Prince Nick? Did he strike you as a sympathetic character or a victimizer who simply exploited the poor and desperate? Did you think he actually believed that Anna was, in fact, Anastasia?

7. Why do you think Schmidt was so devoted to capturing the mysterious R.G. alive, even though he is aware of the greater threats rising around him? Do you think he should have taken more care to ensure his and Esther's safety?

8. At one point in the book, Esther advises Anna to avoid being a fraud, to "be content with being ordinary." Is this a principle that Esther applied to her own life? By the book's conclusion, did you think that she had successfully embraced her new life or was she destined to be haunted by her past?

9. Assuming that Esther and Schmidt survived their flight from Germany, what do you think happened to them? Do you think they stayed together? What kind of life would they have together?

10. How did the book's final twist regarding Esther's past change your perception of both Esther and Anna?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 46 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Love this Author

    This is Ariana's first book. It is a gripping tale based on reality. Her other novels are set during the time of Henry II of England and they, also, are excellent reading. I recommend anything this writer writes.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2009


    WOW!!!! So well written with one of those stop your heart endings. This is one that you'll want to read again and again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I believe this was Franklin's first book - an impressive debut! We're in Berlin, the early 1920s and late 30s. Lots of Russian expatriates, bootlegging, Cabaret-type clubs set against joblessness, inflation, and extreme poverty.

    Nick is a successful owner of several clubs; Esther Solomonova is his disfigured Jewish right-hand manager; Anna Anderson is a supposed Anastasia located by Nick in an asylum and rescued from there so he can promote her as the missing Romanov heiress. Siegfried Schmidt is the police inspector who comes on the scene after an attack at the club. What's the mystery surrounding Anna and her claims, and the identity of the man she knows is after her and the murders he commits? Engrossing love story of Esther and Siegfried set in the coming of Nazism and the rise of Hitler.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Really good book!!

    This book revisits the Anastasia legend with a huge twist. The characters are sympathetic. You find them perfectly believable and want everything to end well for them. New author for me and I loved her.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009


    Franklin is a terrific author she blends suspense with historical accuracy. I was completely absorbed in this book for the two days I read it in.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2007

    Great Book!

    This is a great and entertaining read. It's got all the elements of a great mystery, and brings Berlin alive in the 20's.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2006

    A haunting and enjoyable mystery

    This novel is more than a 'novel of suspense,' it is an intriguing look into the atmosphere of pre-WWII Germany that swept millions into the atrocities that followed. Well researched and intelligently written, the story captures this evil in a twisting plot based on the mysterious woman who claimed to be the Countess Anastasia having survived the massacre of the Romanovs in Imperial Russia during the revolution. You will not be disappointed by the believable characters, realistic dialogue, and unexpected ending. Certainly the author has taken some license with the story, but the end result is a noteworthy work.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A this superb character-driven suspense thriller

    Though the war to end all wars has been over for a few years by 1922 Germany is trouble as the peace has crippled the country. The government is failing and is unable to deal with incredible inflation and unemployment people are starving and Jews are an easy scapegoat by politicians looking for cover. In this countdown to disaster, Hitler begins his message of dominance and start to ascent to power.------------- Her face hideously scarred, Esther Solonomova works as secretary to Prince Nick, who claims he is a Russian nobleman, which is a ruse. Nick owns several Berlin nightclubs whose clients are the rich and richer and affluent foreigners. At a nearby Berlin asylum Nick finds a woman claiming she is missing sole survivor of the Tsarist family, Grand Duchess Anastasia. Though he assumes she is just like him a sham, Nick realizes she actually sounds convincing. He gets her freed, renames her Anna Anderson and moves her in with Esther in a shabby apartment. Nick has begun a scheme to gain the wealth of the Tsars. All is perfect until someone tries to kill Anna and succeeds in murdering those who have come into contact with her.------------ The search for the real Anastasia and Hitler¿s first steps onto the world stage are the subjects of many books and movies, but not together until now. Ariana Franklin blends the pair into a deep historical mystery that brings to life the fledgling but lethal first steps of the Nazis with a con to steal the Tsarist treasures. The key cast members bring 1922 Berlin alive while the murder mystery keeps a fine period piece focused. Early twentieth century whodunit fans will want to read this superb character-driven suspense thriller.----------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2006

    Serial murderer or history repeated

    In THE CITY OF SHADOWS, Ariana Franklin has fictionalized a highly suspenseful and empathetic story of a woman who was potentially the real Anastasia Romonov. Franklin puts her 'historical' story into the setting of a serial killer mystery that lasts for over 10 years in Berlin, Germany. We have this story happening around a number of main characters who are amongst the 'underbelly' of a fallen Germany after it's defeat in World War I. By doing this we get the rise of Hitler from a different perspective than history usually gives us, making reality so much more understandable and horrible. The drama, fear, lives in poverty and confusion, and rise of some of the common underclass population to a visceral power helps to propel this story with its growing fear. This fear helps to drive the main characters in their search for a serial murderer. We have a troubled woman called Anna, a multi-lingual Jewish woman, a night club bouncer, a financial opportunist, and a German policeman who are the main characters in this fast passed mystery that is actually a history lesson in disguise. This is a magnificent thriller that tells a multi-layered story that should not be missed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2015

    highly recommended

    A switch from medieval mysterys to a story of pre second world war Berlin. The author tells an enthralling story of the changes the city experienced wrapped around the mystery of "where is Anastsia?" the supposedly surviving Romanov princess. History,romance and mystery all wrapped up in a great package. The ending will leave you gasping!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    To sageleaf

    Look in result one. Urgent!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2012


    *pads in and begains re arranging everything

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2012

    A tom

    I dont do powers. Have fun with me kits! *pads out laughing evily*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    Medicine Cat Den

    The medicine cat den is hidden behind a waterfall, and a walkway made of stone leads right through the water and into the cave behind. Inside, there is a large circle cut into the stone floor, water filling it. In the middle of the ring of water are nests for patients. The circle is used so the patients can easily access the water when dehydrated. In the corner are two soft and comfortable nest for the medicine cat and apprentice. There are several other holes in the stone, some on the floor and some on the walls, used for storing herbs.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2012


    What a wonderfully written novel with a surprising twist I never saw coming. Loved every minute of this novel.

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  • Posted December 8, 2011

    Very Good, Indeed!

    As a mystery story this early book surpasses the tales of the enchanting lady doctor that Franklin sets largely in England during the reign of Henry II. Those tales rely heavily on the strength of character of the heroine and the portrayal of the atmosphere of the time and place. The medieval crimes often seem forced and the books simply get carried by the charm, observations and surgical miracles performed by the admirable Adelia. With the excitement of between wars Berlin as the setting, the retelling of the Anastasia story is skillfully conveyed, as the psychopathic figures of Ernst Röhm and his stormtroppers mix into the story. The procession to the ending is not only well paced and cleverly constructed--it leads to one of the genuine surprise endings of the genre.

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  • Posted July 19, 2011

    Great book

    lots of plot twists, surprise ending. Really good mystery in pre- wwII Berlin. Too bad she died - love her other books too.

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  • Posted November 14, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Just okay

    This is an okay book. I started reading it about three times and then lost interest and put it away. Finally, I got to finish it. I was not that intrigued or caught by the book. In the end, it was just a passable reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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