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City of Shadows

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  3,274 ratings  ·  441 reviews
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
Paperback, 422 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published May 9th 2006)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,274 ratings  ·  441 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Nov 02, 2008 rated it liked it
This is a wonderful gripping read. Set in the hyperinflationary, chaotic Berlin of the 1920s, and filled with characters that would be at home in any Eric Ambler, City of Shadows offers a picture of Berlin in the worst throes of economic collapse. Nick is a night club owner, favorite of those in power, those who fill their various needs at his various clubs. But ever on the look out for new sources of income, he hears of a mysterious woman locked away in an asylum. Could she be the true Anastasi ...more
Heather Reads Books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oh, it's so sad when a book starts out as a five-star book only to gradually creep down to a two. For a while there, Ariana really had me. I was into the plot, I was into the characters, I was even into the setting and the time period. But then, somehow, it suddenly felt way too long, way too draggy, plus there was this abrupt shift where the book suddenly jumped ahead nine years but somehow we were back where we left off, only we weren't.

Esther, our snappy protagonist, is a young Russian Jewish
Apr 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
This novel held my attention with three very interesting subplots: the life and travails of a Russian Jewish refugee who escaped the pogroms of the early 1900s, a misanthropic woman who claimed to be the long lost Anastasia Nikolaevna, and the struggles of an honest German detective against the increasingly political police force fashioned by Hitler's socialist party. They all revolve around a series of murders which threaten to destroy all of them as Germany hurdles toward its Holocaust and the ...more
Nov 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I love Ariana Franklin! I've been reading her historical thrillers--Mistress of the Art of Death--(and I see there's a new one out...) but this book is set in Germany between the two World Wars. It is mysterious, romantic, thought-provoking and full of amazing female characters, both good and 'bad'. I find especially that Franklin has a deep respect and empathy for her characters. She can create a character that is deeply flawed, yet she sets those flaws in the light of human tragedies that we a ...more
Sep 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Atmospheric, creepy, and clever, Ariana Franklin dips her practiced pen into the well-mined Romanov conspiracy pool and comes up with a dark and riveting take on the Anna Anderson fraud, set in 1920s and 1930s Berlin before and during the Nazis’ clambering to power.

Franklin frames her tale through the eyes of Esther Solomonova, a scarred Jewish survivor of a Russian pogrom now eking out a living serving as a girl-of-all-trades for Prince Nick, the charming conman owner of several risqué cabarets
Book Concierge
Set in Berlin from 1922 to 1933, this suspense novel explores a turbulent time for the people of Germany, who are struggling with hyper-inflation, a depressed economy and a government unable to get the nation back on its feet following defeat in WWI. Esther Solomonova is a refugee from that era; a Russian Jew who bears the scars of the pogrom which killed her family, she works as a secretary to fellow Russian “Prince” Nick who runs several cabarets. But when Nick discovers a woman in an insane a ...more
May 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Ariana Franklin has once again developed a strong female character, Esther, and placed her in a backdrop of a deteriorating Germany during the early part of the 20th Century. Incorporating German history, the bustle of the city of Berlin, the Anatasia mystery, and a Nazi serial killer into one concise story, Franklin pulls off creating a story that keeps the reader involved from the first page to the last. Two other characters, a determined police detective and a woman who has lost her past, int ...more
Jan 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Book Groups
I dropped a hint that I wanted this for Christmas 2007. It is Diana Norman writing under a pseudonym. The book is set in Germany between the wars and involves the story of the alleged Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Warning: it is very very dark. It reminded me a little of Cabaret.
Jun 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Make that 4.5 stars! Nazis, Anastasia, transvestites, this fascinating book set during Hitler's rise to power in Germany has it all. Ms. Franklin is a wonderful writer and when the end surprised me I realized that she had artfully dropped clues.
can I give it 6 stars? Pre-WWII Berlin, mystery, history, kick-ass surprise (no spoiling here)

It was a Bong book. . .
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Almost every Ariana Franklin book might appear to be boring at the beginning, but later you can be sure you won't be able to put it aside. This piece wasn't an exception, after reading first few pages I thought I'd quit, but something kept me going on. I'm glad I didn't give it up, its gripping story made me swallow the book whole only in five days. The good thing about Franklin's books is that you cannot ever guess the ending and City of Shadows had the most unexpected solution I've ever encoun ...more
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best Anastasia Survives book I've ever read, and I've read shelves of them, even though that's not what it's about, though that IS what it's about, in the end. Oh, just read it. (I guessed the Big Twist at--I checked--twelve percent, but it didn't spoil the book even a little.)
Jan 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
I can't write too much right now (plus the book was a while ago...But LOVED it). Ariana Franklin/Diana Norman (she writes under two names - no idea why) helms this historical fiction about 1930s Germany, a dreary, appallingly soul-crushing time for the German national psyche, sizzling with the embers of unrest that allowed Hitlerian philosophy to ignite it into flames. "No!" you want to yell out to the good, poor, struggling, weary, battered, German men and women you are reading about. "NO!" the ...more
Rosina Lippi
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
When I first picked this novel up, I noted that this was only the author's second novel, something that struck me as almost improbable: it reads as though she's been writing for years. And in fact she has. Ariana Franklin is the pen name of Diana Norman -- whose work I adore.

I really have to admire this novel, for its interesting, frustrating, engaging, horrific and wonderful characters and for the complex series of plots and subplots woven together like challah.

Franklin begins with the well kno
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Germany between the world wars was a volatile place: extreme inflation, food shortages and unemployment in the 1920s led to political upheaval, violence and the rise of Hitler's Nazis in the 1930s. Added to the chaos was an influx of refugees from Bolshevik Russia. One of these emigres was Anna Anderson who claimed to be Anastasia, the youngest of the czar's daughters and the only surviver of the massacre of the royal family. Ariana Franklin uses the real-life Anna Anderson as a central characte ...more
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012-reads
Before the event of DNA testing there was a woman who everyone had heard of. Whether you believed in her or not, people found her fascinating, this woman claimed to Anastasia the last living heir to the Russian throne, the daughter of the murdered Czar Nicholas II
In this fictional story is a young Jewess, a refugee in 1922 Berlin, this is Germany before Hitler. Because of the scar on her face Esther survives by being a secretary to Prince Nick as he is called who owns several cabarets in the ci
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What an exhilarating ride full of twists and turns! Now that my heart has stopped racing all I feel is sadness........sadness that I have no more Ariana Franklin novels to devour. She is one of my all time favorite authors and I have loved all of her novels written under this pseudonym.

She has painted a vivid picture of Berlin during this turbulent time in its history. We see the seedier side that flourished in the years following WWI while most of the city was living in starvation and squalor.
Jul 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
Another great book by this author! It was interesting right from the start and I enjoyed the entire book. A mystery thriller, but also historical fiction. I learned quite a bit from this book, as I had to google a bunch of things to refresh my memory of the actual events. Set in Berlin in post WW1...when Hitler is just beginning to gain popularity. Another look at what happened to the German citizens and leading up to the inevitable horror of the Halocaust. Strong characters and a great storylin ...more
Hilari Bell
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this book because I love the Mistress of the Art of Death series so much—and even though City of Shadows, set in 1920s and 1930s Berlin, has no connection to Franklin’s other books it’s excellent too. Regardless of the period, Franklin writes great, appealing characters with depth and humor. The mystery plot, which centers around Anna Anderson, who passed herself off as Anastasia, is a fine one—but this book also reminded me that the best books usually do more than one thing. The backdrop ...more
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Four stars because it was a little long for my taste. Otherwise a first class compilation. Set in pre WWII Berlin the author exposes the methodical rise to power of Adolf Hitler. I came to see how the struggles of the German people against out of control inflation, created the desperation which made them turn to anyone who promised to lift them out of the poverty and hunger that prevailed. Murder, conspiracy, romance, anti-semitism, integrity and redemption are all here. Quite a line up. S Heart ...more
Diana Sandberg
Sep 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Good, not great. I liked the second half better than the first, which dragged a bit. I had some trouble with Franklin's choice of voices. This is always difficult when attempting to indicate class/education with language when the language spoken is not the one being read. Slangy English does not really convey slangy, lower class German, at least not without a conscious adjustment on the part of the reader. I did like Inspector Schmidt and I did like the nice little twist at the end, although I h ...more
Darcy Gregg
May 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A very enjoyable read. I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could, as I couldn't put it down for the last 1/3. It had a good hook and kept me reading, enjoyable and believeable characters. I even went on line and googled some things. I also watched a travel show on Berlin so I could get better pictures in my head. I would now like to visit there, so it's good it sparked an interest and left me wanting to know more about history. The book's ending left you feeling good and I didn't expect that when it was ...more
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If I ever write a novel, this is how I would want it to turn out. It's a great mystery with twists and turns, but even better, it weaves in some serious world history in an insightful but not heavy-handed way - the Russian Revolution, the fall of the Romanovs, the Anastasia mystery, World War I, the Weimar Republic, and the rise of Hitler. It's incredibly atmospheric with fascinating, multi-dimensional characters whose lives are anything but predictable. I can't recommend this book enough!
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the best historical mysteries I've read. I was bowled over at the end! Love this author's other books in the Mistress of Death series too!
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic for anyone who likes history. The mystery line is great for those who like thrillers.
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I really liked the depth of this book.

First of all, there's the main storyline. It's a mystery story, but there's more than one question that you need to discover the answer to. Is the woman called Anna Anderson indeed the Russian grand duchess Anastasia, as some people claim? If not, who is she? Is there indeed someone after her life, and if so, who and why? I did not think the answers to these questions were predictable (at least I did not guess everything right, although I had some ideas).

Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: interbellum
The first part is set in 1923 Berlin. A city hit by hyperinflation, unemployment and misery for ordinary people but also a city with opportunities for those who chose to live on the edge. One of them is a Russian refugee who owns a string of nightclubs. With the reluctant help of his secretary Esther he sets up a scheme to pass an unknown woman from a mental hospital off as Anastasia, the czar's daughter. This Anna has a mysterious past and death seems to follow her. Doubt sets in....could she b ...more
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very nicely done mystery, with an ending I didn't care for. Otherwise would be 5.

This plays with the "Anastasia escaped" plot. It is fiction, it which it is assumed that the discovery of Anna Anderson, the woman many thought was Grand Duchess Anastasia, was by a rougish cafe owner who then coached her to help her succeed. However, this is just a skeleton to hang a marvelous mystery story on. Someone is trying to kill Anna, and several people have been killed who might know where she is. A dilige
Ann Woodbury Moore
This gripping mystery is set in Berlin, part 1 in 1922 and part 2 ten years later. Esther Solomonova, a Jewish refugee, is the personal secretary of "Prince" Nick, a shady but influential nightclub owner. When a young woman surfaces who might possibly be the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia--escaped from the slaughter of her family by the Bolsheviks--Nick takes up her cause and enlists Esther to help care for and train the girl. Is she real? Is she a fake? And why are people around her dying at ...more
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Laurie R. King Vi...: This topic has been closed to new comments. City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin - VBC March 2018 90 53 Mar 28, 2018 01:15AM  

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

The Death Maze (UK) is published as The Serpent's Tale in the US.
Relics of the Dead (UK) is published as Grave Goods in the US.
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