Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Shadow and Light (Berlin Trilogy, #2)” as Want to Read:
Shadow and Light (Berlin Trilogy, #2)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Shadow and Light

(Berlin Trilogy #2)

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  633 ratings  ·  81 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
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Farrar Straus Giroux (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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  633 ratings  ·  81 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Shadow and Light (Berlin Trilogy, #2)
Jan 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery-thriller
This is the second adventure – after the excellent Rosa – of Berlin police detective Nikolai Hoffner. It is now 1927 and our hero is called in to investigate the apparent suicide of a movie executive at the renowned Ufa studios and needless to say, Herr Hoffner smells a rat. Before it’s all said and done, Nikolai – and the reader – get a glimpse inside the burgeoning movie industry – particularly the evolution from silent movies to “talkies” - the Berlin underworld – and it’s seamy – and the Naz ...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 Lorre, ...more
Donna Brown
Mar 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 10, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read-2018
In 1927 Berlin, chief inspector Nikolai Hoffner of the Kriminalpolizei is called out to the famous Ufa film studios to look into the supposed suicide of an executive found dead in his bathtub. With the help of renowned film director Fritz Lang and crime boss Alby Pimm, Hoffner is soon involved in an ever more complicated investigation reaching far beyond the film business into the sex trade, industrial espionage, a far-reaching conspiracy and the rise of the Nazi party, with plenty of sinister f ...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 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
David Lowther
Jan 29, 2013 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 rated it liked it
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
Aug 20, 2012 added it
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
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
John Gaynard
Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
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 skippe
Apr 06, 2009 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
May 05, 2010 rated it did not like it
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.
Beth Levitt
Jan 09, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Feb 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 11, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
May 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Good mystery story set in Berlin. Rabb builds his mysteries around historical facts, makes for interesting reading.
Ken Schloman
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Super followup to Rosa. Great research on the rise of Nazi Germany.
Dirck de Lint
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm hard pressed to think of another novel I've read set in the 20th century featuring loads of references to celebrities and historical figures which is so free of a sense of simpering, "oh, look how clever I am for inserting THIS person," show-off-ery. Whether this is down the the German setting, the aura of exhaustion which the protagonist emits, or a deft control of just how much of the famous folks we're shown, I'm not sure-- it's a tribute to Rabb's skill as a writer, however he's managed ...more
Daisy F.
Feb 17, 2019 rated it liked it
This book wasn't for me. It was well written and it was apparent it was well researched. But is was slow and the story twisting and sometimes I wasn't sure exactly what the characters had figured out. The setting of Berlin in 1927 was interesting. I didn't really feel like the main character, Chief Inspector Nikolai Hoffner, was very likeable. He seemed miserable and unable to solve the case. Even at the end other characters were explaining to him why things happened. This one wasn't for me. I p ...more
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow, even darker than the first novel and the atmosphere is quite awesome, despite somewhat contrived ending.
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
I listened to this on the treadmill and got just past half way done when I realized I didn’t like any of the characters and wasn’t curious how it ended.
May 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Probably would have helped to read the first book beforehand. But even then...
Stephanie Thompson
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
2nd book in a trilogy. The plot was hard to follow, I am still not sure what was resolved.
« previous 1 3 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Madison Mega-Mara...: Shadow and Light 1 5 Jul 09, 2012 04:27PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Metropolis (Bernie Gunther, #14)
  • Goldstein (Gereon Rath, #3)
  • The Midnight Guardian (Millennial #1)
  • El síndrome de Mozart
  • Lady Drusilla's Road to Ruin (Ladies in Disgrace, #2)
  • The Complete Tales of Edgar Allan Poe
  • El que la hace... ¿la paga? Cuentos policíacos latinoamericanos
  • El Principe: (Spanish Edition)
  • The War: A Concise History, 1939-1945
  • Halcones de la noche
  • El recuerdo del mago (Las crónicas de Fortuna, #2)
  • Timmen mellan hund och varg
  • Do You Mind If I Cancel? (Things That Still Annoy Me)
  • حكايات أوسكار وايلد
  • September Tide: A Play
  • Black Swan Green
  • Philosophical Thoughts
  • Die Akte Vaterland (Gereon Rath, #4)
See similar books…
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

Other books in the series

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

News & Interviews

Are you having a difficult time reading these days? If so, you're not alone. Since the pandemic began, I've found it harder to concentrate on...
72 likes · 35 comments