Shadow and Light: A Novel
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

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

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  305 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Berlin, between the two world wars. When an executive at the renowned Ufa film studios is found dead floating in his office bathtub, 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...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Sarah Crichton Books (first published January 1st 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Shadow and Light, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Shadow and Light

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 678)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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
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
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...more
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
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
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
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Good mystery story set in Berlin. Rabb builds his mysteries around historical facts, makes for interesting reading.
Super followup to Rosa. Great research on the rise of Nazi Germany.
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...more
David Lowther
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...more
Charles Kerns
Berlin: Some Light, Lots of Noir

Not Bad. 1930's Berlin Noir books usually explore questions of living (and dying) in an increasingly immoral, Nazified world. In Rabb's book, the thugs come from everywhere--the Nazis are just the new kids on the block. His detective has made peace with old school evils and now has to deal with the new guys--the big problem is not that they are bad; the problem is they are too ambitious (thats what the old rich Prussian says).

The book creeps thru Berlin's UFA film...more
I have to give Jonathan Rabb extra stars because of Berlin. This second novel featuring noirish detective Nikolai Hoffner is set in Weimar Berlin with all of it wildness and immorality, and shows the beginnings of the Nazi rise to power in Germany. As in his previous novel, Rabb brings real historical persons into the mix. Here, where the subject is the German film industry, Fritz Lang and Peter Lorre appear along with many more figures of the time instrumental to the political situation.

The at...more
Rabb deftly captures the atmosphere of 1920s Berlin, particularly the decadence for which this period is famous. He does have one blooper of a factual error -- one of the characters was to take a transatlantic flight to go from Germany to the USA, something which was not possible in 1926. Other than this, an entertaining read with a terribly flawed protagonist.
I can't say I enjoyed this as much as Rosa, the first of Rabb's Berlin trilogy, but I certainly enjoyed it enough to want to get my hands on the third book, The Second Son. There is a thin line between a complex plot that keeps you guessing, and one that merely leaves you confused, and too often in the first half of the book this novel crossed that line for me. Especially as the main character, Detective Inspector Nikolai Hoffner of the Kriminalpolizei, struggles to see the bigger picture for mu...more

Another book that seemed tempting based on description and it's just a by the numbers mystery set in "Berlin 1920's", but it could be set anywhere, anytime in the modern world that has police, detectives and such; flat prose, colorless descriptions.

The blurb compares it to Alan Furst books and that attracted my attention - well, I guess both authors write in English, but I think that otherwise there is a sea of difference between a talent like Mr. Furst and a probably average mystery writer - c...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 22 23 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Bluffing Mr. Churchill (Inspector Troy, #4)
  • A Night of Long Knives (Hannah Vogel, #2)
  • Field Gray (Bernard Gunther, #7)
  • Silesian Station (John Russell, #2)
  • Children of Wrath
  • The Confession
  • The Man From Berlin (Gregor Reinhardt #1)
  • Daddy
  • Śmierć w Breslau
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...
Rosa (Berlin Trilogy, #1) The Book of Q: A Novel The Overseer The Second Son (Berlin Trilogy, #3) The Strand Magazine June-Sept. 2013

Share This Book