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City of Shadows: A Novel of Suspense Paperback – Bargain Price, February 6, 2007

82 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Engrossing thriller...Franklin deftly orchestrates her characters on and off the world’s stage, building suspense to a dramatic, surprising finish.” (Publishers Weekly )

“Entertaining.” (Kirkus Reviews )

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 422 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060817275
  • ASIN: B001OW5OH2
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #925,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ariana Franklin is the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. A former journalist, Norman has written several critically acclaimed biographies and historical novels. She lives in Hertfordshire, England, with her husband, the film critic Barry Norman.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Larry Scantlebury on May 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I found City of Shadows to be magnetic, haunting and tightly constructed. The dialogue is well crafted, the plot, in the shadow of what was about to occur, frightening, and the unexpected twists and surprises, plentiful.

Berlin in the 1920's, once a magnificent city, had been disgraced. Germany, late to come to the industrial revolution, had been promised an overwhelming victory in the Great War three years earlier, only to have a crushing military and social defeat. The humiliating Treaty of Versailles, which Germany was forced to sign in order to surrender, was to the German people not merely an acknowledgement of defeat but rather an admission of wrong.

Inflation was rampant. A cup of coffee was 1000 marks at breakfast, 1800 by lunch. In the streets, the socialist thugs fought bloody battles with the communist thugs. The Catholics distrusted the Protestants; the farmers distrusted the laborers. Germany needed a hero. Would they get one? No. They got the devil himself. But in the meantime . . . .

Franklin begins a tale of murder, conspiracy, romance, anti-semitism, integrity and redemption. Prince Nick, a displaced Russian, owns a series of cabarets in Berlin, catering to the diverse tastes and odd 'late night' habits of his clientele. He hires Esther Solomonova, a Jewish refugee from the Russian Revolution, once lovely, extremely intelligent, multi-lingual, but terribly scarred from her experiences during the fall of the Romanov Empire when the Czar and his entire family were gunned down by the Bolsheviks.

Rumors (existing to this day) abound that one of the Romanov children escaped death when her siblings fell upon her. She later lived, hidden by revolutionaries still loyal to the Czar.
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful By LILeo on May 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
While I enjoyed the book, and found that it had an engaging plot and some interesting historical background, I also found the plot predictable. I saw the twist coming for half the book, and many of the other scenes were also somewhat awkwardly drawn.

The most bothersome to me, though, were the anachronisms in the book. They were small things, really, but they were so jarringly out of place that, after seeing them, I began to question whether the author's research had sound historical footing. In broad strokes it did, but she seems to regard this period of time through a very 21st century lens. Even the interactions between characters is more in tune with our own times than with the era of which she writes.

The anachronisms that stood out included specific references. First, Nick went to the airport to fly to Paris in 1922. Passenger air service was VERY rare at that time, and most of it was for long flights to colonies and protectorates in Africa, India, etc. Air transport was established for mail at this time, but passenger travel through Europe would certainly have been by train, even for the wealthy.

Esther also says that her memories are like a movie with its soundtrack, running through her mind over and over. Talkies had not yet come out in 1922. The first commercial sound picture was in 1923, but the first to be released for viewing was in 1927 - no one would have had the language to reference a "sound track" back in 1922.

Again, these are small items, but they were so obvious to me - and I am not a historian - that I have to wonder about many of the other details that she leans on for her story. I love good historical fiction because it gives me a window into a time that I can't otherwise visit.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By KatPanama on March 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This morning, with great reluctance, I turned the last page of Ariana Franklin's City of Shadows which is just about the best mystery ever. History, politics and unexpected love woven into one my best ever mystery reads. Finest kind to be sure. The author's unique voice, deep knowledge, sly wit, cleverness of phrase and sterling plotting ensures outstanding readability.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on May 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It's 1922 Berlin and Germany is reeling with inflation, anti-Semitism is on the rise, the population is experiencing unemployment of grand proportions, the citizens are literally starving and Adolph Hitler has begun his methodical rise to power.

Esther Solonomova, a Jew, is given a job as secretary to the owner of several Berlin nightclubs. Prince Nick is a fake but with all the troubles Germany is experiencing, who cares? Nick is always looking for a way to make money. He learns of an inmate in a local insane asylum who maintains that she is the Grand Duchess Anastasia, the only surviving member of the Russian royal family.

Nick takes the woman from the asylum and names her Anna Anderson. With the help of Esther and another of his employees, he begins the preparation that will ultimately have Anna lay claim to the Russian throne as the only surviving heir.

But a mysterious man attempts, once every six weeks, to murder Anna. This Nazi murderer continues to fail, but over a span of years people surrounding Anna begin to die. It is up to Esther and Inspector Schmidt to solve the mystery.

Ariana Franklin's City of Shadows is a gripping story, based on fact. The writing is taut, the storyline is fascinating and the tension is perfect (building slowing but surely to a surprising end). I felt as if I had been transported to the Berlin of the 1920s and 1930s. City of Shadows is a magnificent novel.

Armchair Interviews says: City of Shadows is one of the best reads of 2006.
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