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Shadow and Light: A Novel (Berlin Trilogy #2)

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  464 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
Berlin, 1927. When a studio executive at Ufa -- the home of German Cinema -- is found dead in his office bathtub, Herr Kriminal-Oberkommissar Nikolai Hoffner is determined to uncover the truth behind what he firmly believes is murder. With the help of Fritz Lang and Alby Pimm, the leader of the most powerful crime syndicate in Berlin, Hoffner finds his case taking him beyo ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Sarah Crichton Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,003)
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Jan 28, 2009 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are three detectives that I've grown fond of: Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti is the most well adjusted of the three. He's a family man, loves his wife and kids, tries to make it home for dinner, treats people well, and solves the horrendous cases he's given. Dotore Brunetti is Italian. Arkady Renko, Martin Cruz Smith's creation, is at the other end of the spectrum. Reviled by his comrades, unsuccessful at most relationships, constantly battling the system, he barely survives from case to case ...more
Lewis Weinstein
This is a complex story, and I'm not sure I understood all of the pieces even when I finished the book, and certainly not while reading it. But that may well be the point. Berlin 1927 was a chaotic combination of dark forces, working at cross-purposes in which the only clear common ingredients were greed and a manic search for power. It was certainly beyond the skills of a single flawed policeman to understand, let alone impact; his well-meaning personal and professional failures are compassiona ...more
Ron Arden
This book is like the old Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett novels that Hollywood made into film noir. The story takes place in Berlin in 1927 and focuses on a detective, Kriminal-Oberkommisar Nikolai Hoffner, who investigates the murder of a film director at the Ufa studios. Herr Hoffner gets caught in the middle of intrigue, murder, big business, the sex & drug trade, the rise of the Nazi party and of course a femme fatale. Jonathan Rabb mixes real people, like Fritz Lang and Peter Lor ...more
Donna Brown
Mar 04, 2013 Donna Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably because I was more familiar with the too-numerous characters, I found this an easier read than Rosa. In both books plots are over-complicated and labyrinthine. Nikolai Hoffner is not a very good father, a terrible husband, and very careless of his women. However, I like him and worry about him. He's like a real person to me. The backdrop of Berlin in the 1920s is fascinating. This book helps in understanding the changes Germany was going through.

Like Rosa, this book left me lost a lot o
This was a difficult book for me to get ... with so many twists and turns. Hubby indicated that it was way too complicated and I agree. The first chapters were just so difficult to get into, but the story did pick up in or after chapter 4(?). The best part of the book was the author's note indicating the actual events that occured after the incidents in this book. If I was more of a WWI/II or movie history buff, I may have found the book more fascinating. As it stood, I was just confused with al ...more
May 09, 2009 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rabb, Jonathan. SHADOW AND LIGHT. (2009). ****. Despite a labyrinthine plot and, perhaps, one too many characters, this novel from Rabb keeps you reading on and on. The plot begins at the lots of Weimar Germany’s Ufa studio, the home of German cinema. A studio executive is found dead in the tub of his office bathroom. The discovery will set off an investigation that will expose the darker and more desparate side of a country coming apart at the seams. Our protagonist is Herr Kriminal-Oberkommiss ...more
Jun 10, 2012 Peggy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe-1930-1945
Berlin 1927 Herr Kriminal-Oberkommissar Hoffner is investigating an apparent suicide of a movie producer. He has already suffered from standing with those who do not aid the rising nazi party. In fact they killed his wife. Now he discovers that his older son is running with a group closely allied with several individuals who will become Nazi leaders. I loved the descriptions of Berlin and learned move about 1927 politics but I found the investigation of the suicide and other plots hard to follow ...more
I don't know what to make of this book. I liked Shadow and Light a lot, but found the plot confusing and hard to follow. Some of it made no sense. Rabb writes noirishly with great atmosphere and characters. I especially liked our tortured protagonist Kriminal-Oberkommissar Nikolai Hoffner and his son Georgi, and Alby Pimm. I never quite figured out what Leni Coyle was "really" up to but maybe I'm a superficial reader in this case. Or maybe she had no idea herself. I mainly found her annoying. Th ...more
I enjoyed this, but it was definitely more shadow than light for most of the book The evocation of Berlin between the World Wars was marvellous, but extremely depressing, as was the protagonist detective's defeated attitude. Loved the way actual historical facts about Fritz Lang, his Nazi-sympathizer wife Thea von Harbou, and certain notorious Nazis such as Goebbels were woven into what might otherwise seem an entirely bizarre plot about sound film technology. At the end of the day so many of th ...more
I started this with some trepidation after my encounter with Rabb's "The Book of Q." This historical novel, however, turned out to be a tightly plotted, atmospheric mystery. The film industry, sex trade(straight and gay), criminal underworld, and of course Nazis all play a role in this novel of 1920s Berlin. The protagonist, Kriminal-Oberkommisar Nikolai Hoffner, wends his way through a labyrinthine set of leads as he investigates the suspicious death of a German film studio executive. Rabb seam ...more
David Lowther
Feb 04, 2013 David Lowther rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shadow and Light is the second in Rabb's Berlin trilogy. The first, Rosa,was set in 1919 in the politically turbulent Berlin following the German surrender in the First World War.
The author mixes real people with fictional and the policeman Hoffner is the leading character in both novels.
Both novels have extremely complex plots which, at times, are difficult to follow. In Shadow and Light however, as the narrative reaches its conclusion, I felt an overall sense of satisfaction which I hadn't e
Apr 29, 2012 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
I would love to sit in the room when an author and publisher discuss (or debate) what to name a "literary" novel. Often understanding the name requires more thought than the book deserves. This title intrigues me because as I read I kept searching for the light. And searching. And searching. Trust me it was no where to be found except in the technical apparatus of the film industry.

Pre WW2 Germany has inspired alot of recent fiction and I've been enjoying a mini-immersion into the Weimer Republi
John Gaynard
The 1927 period detail in this novel was just as good as in Jonathan Rabb's previous novel in the series, Rosa: A Novel, to which I gave 5 stars. There is an attempt to make a unifying figure out of the film director, Fritz Lang, but this use of a real person doesn't work as well as in the first novel, which was built around the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg.

What made it difficult for me to finish the novel was its byzantine plot--around the German-American battle to master the technology of t
Jul 09, 2012 Val rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mmm
The book takes place in Berlin, between the two world wars. When an executive at the renowned Ufa film studios is found dead, it falls to Nikolai Hoffner, a chief inspector in the Kriminalpolizei, to investigate. With the help of Fritz Lang (the German director) and Alby Pimm (leader of the most powerful crime syndicate in Berlin), Hoffner finds his case taking him beyond the world of film and into the far more treacherous landscape of Berlin's sex and drug trade, the rise of Hitler's Brownshirt ...more
Dec 10, 2009 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could give this book a higher rating, because I love the atmosphere of the book, like a Dashiell Hammett. Berlin is gritty and smoky and dirty and corrupt, but oh so alluring. I liked Detective Hoffner & his son Georgi. I liked that the book included historical figures as characters.

So what was it? My fault. I put the book down half-way through for about a month. During that time I forgot who half the characters were and how far the case had progressed. I was so confused I almost sk
Apr 10, 2009 Debbie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had earlier read the first book in this series with Berlin police detective Nikolai Hoffner, Rosa, about the murder of Rosa Luxemburg in 1919 Berlin. This book had all the same strengths and weakness of that one. Hoffner is a great gritty, hardened detective and Berlin is suitably decadent and threatening. The plot, however is so convoluted and the bad guys go to such involved lengths to either do their bad acts of cover them up that I lost track of some of the parts of the story. Hoffner was ...more
Bruce Macbain
Jul 16, 2010 Bruce Macbain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a mystery set in Berlin in the 1920s and draws heavily on true events involving the German film industry. Director Fritz Lang ("Metropolis") and actor Peter Lorre make appearances. Kriminal Inspektor Hoffner (who also appeared in the author's previous novel, "Rosa") investigates the murder of a film producer and finds that the trail leads both to Hollywood and to the nascent Nazi party. The plot is perhaps overly complex (at least for my aging brain)but its greatest strength is in the ch ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 05, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Midway through "Shadow and Light", a character says of American influence in post-Great War Berlin: "Very clever, these Americans. One day they'll save the world. Whether it needs saving or not." Obviously, coming from the pen of Rabb, the quote stands as Rabb's commentary on the arc of American cultural, political, financial, and military influence around the globe in the years since. And regardless of one's views on those subjects it is hard to argue with the accuracy or the irony of it.

But th
May 03, 2015 henrys-axe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jonathan Rabb presents another mesmerizing study of 1920s Berlin through the eyes of Criminal Chief Inspector Nikolai Hoffner. It is now eight years after the events of the first in the series, Rosa. Hoffner is much darker in this novel, as is the content. Central to the novel is the emerging film industry, the German company UFA, the famous expressionist director Fritz Lang and the rising impact of the right-wing National Socialist Party. Rabb description of the depravity and brutality of the e ...more
May 05, 2010 Crystal rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rejects
Another book that made me feel foolish when I finished it, because why, oh why did I keep reading it. Set in post-WWI Berlin, it's another book that delves into the atmosphere leading to Nazi Germany and WWII, but it is not as successful as the Frank Tallis books is evoking the era. There was way too much meandering in this book and when the reason became clear for the murders, it still wasn't clear as it seemed too insignificant and far-fetched a motive for the mayhem that it generated.
Jan 09, 2011 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the book's premise (set in Berlin in the 1920s focusing on the film industry and the introduction of sound) and throughly enjoyed the first one third to one half of the book. But then the author decided to make the ending overly convoluted so I could not follow his thread. I would read another as I thought the writing excellent and Rabb is particularly good about creating atmosphere. So this is a mixed review.
Jennifer Eckel
Interesting novel, mystery, dysfunctional family thriller. Along the way I realized I really should have paid attention to the fact this was Book 2 in a Trilogy(Duh!!) Nevertheless very interesting read. The title is a play on the German/American movie industry, the Berlin weather, the sex trade, and the organized crime that flourished in the city between the wars. Other readers have indicated a complicated plot full of twists and turns. I agree. I think I know whodunit, but I have my doubts. Th ...more
Apr 17, 2011 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
All the elements are here - A clever author, interesting history and a gripping story. Somehow though it does not come together quite in the way one would like I always felt like things were just a smidgen too complicated and convoluted.
Feb 14, 2010 Jerome rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It may be that I liked this book as much as I did because I have read a lot about this era in Germany and am of German decent. I have also seen both movies, M and Metropolis as well as the movie The Blue Angle and liked them a lot.
Jun 06, 2011 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good mystery story set in Berlin. Rabb builds his mysteries around historical facts, makes for interesting reading.
Ken Schloman
Aug 30, 2011 Ken Schloman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Super followup to Rosa. Great research on the rise of Nazi Germany.
Jul 16, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, historical
Thoroughly enjoyable, but complicated. It starts off with an apparent suicide at a film studio, but Hoffner knows it's not that simple. Hoffner is a good character, determined and solid, but horrible at relationships, he's drinks too much, and is probably too friendly with the criminal backbone of the city. On the other hand, it seems like the criminals are more help than the system. The more he digs, the more grime and muck rises. And maybe that's how Berlin was at the time. Somehow, the crime ...more
This is the second part of the Inspector Nikolai Hoffner trilogy and though enjoyable it is the weakest of the three. It is set in 1927, 9 years on from part one and both of Nikolai's sons are now young men. His youngest son Georg is just starting out on a career in cinema, effectively working as a runner cum teaboy at Ufa, Germany's main film studio whilst Sascha his elder estranged son is involved with the fringes of the nascent Nazi party.

The crime story starts with a death at Ufa's Berlin s
Feb 28, 2013 Katy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vine-book
Please note: I read this book in January, 2009 from a copy of the book I received from Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review. This is that review, written in January 2009.

About the book: Set in 1927 Berlin, this is Germany as few have witnessed it. Decadent in an almost desperate way, grasping at whatever it can hold on to, and still reeling from being made scapegoat of WWI, its citizens distract themselves however they can.

My Synopsis: Out at the Ufa film studios, something is happening
May 26, 2015 Rayrumtum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Set in Weimar Germany a police officer gets embroiled in a mysterious death at Ufa, the famous movie studio. In Berlin of this time there is decadence and the earliest indicators of the rise of fascism. The plot is convoluted sort of like Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. Main characters include the detectives two sons, fritz Lang, a mysterious American woman, a German mobster, and even Peter Lorre makes a cameo. I liked this better than the prequel Rosa about the murder of Rosa Luxembourg.
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Madison Mega-Mara...: Shadow and Light 1 5 Jul 09, 2012 04:27PM  
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Jonathan Rabb grew up knowing he would be an academic. The son and grandson (on both sides) of historians, Rabb’s world shook at its very core when he opted to try his hand at political theory. As an undergraduate at Yale, Rabb divided his time among Locke and Hobbes and Hegel while spending his more reckless hours singing with the Whiffenpoofs and galloping across stage in such roles as Harry the ...more
More about Jonathan Rabb...

Other Books in the Series

Berlin Trilogy (3 books)
  • Rosa (Berlin Trilogy, #1)
  • The Second Son (Berlin Trilogy, #3)

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