A cultured city scarred by war. An eastern migr with scars and secrets of her own. A young woman who claims 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 political movement growing in power. . . . Deeply atmospheric, peopled with rich, complex characters, City of Shadows is an enthralling novel of historical suspense set in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s -- a decadent, turbulent time in which a proud nation scarred by defeat, deprivation, and debauchery will become the fertile breeding ground for the rise of National Socialism. Berlin, 1922 -- one of this troubled city's growing number of refugees, Esther Solomonova survives by working as secretary to her fellow Russian migr , "Prince"Nick, a scheming adventurer and cabaret owner. Always on the prowl for a deal, Nick smells money when he hears of a woman in an asylum claiming to be a grand duchess, daughter of the Czar of all the Russias, who escaped the assassination of the rest of her family by the Bolsheviks.
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 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 30, 2006
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Excerpt from City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin
Berlin, May 1, 1922
"What?" She tore off her Dictaphone headset, made a mark on a notepad, and went next door to his office.
He was sitting with his chair turned to the window that looked down onto the floor of his nightclub.
It was a fine nightclub, the Green Hat, one of the largest and most exclusive in Berlin. He'd hired Kandinsky to paint the walls "Russian scenes," he'd told him. "I want Old Russia" and been disappointed. "It's blobs," he'd said when he saw the result.
"It's wonderful," Esther had told him. And it was.
But his Russia hadn't consisted of blobs, so he'd insisted on lining the walls with huge stuffed brown bears and putting ribboned kokoshniks on the heads of the cigarette girls and hiring waiters who could squat-dance. "So they know this is a piece of Old Russia," he'd said.
"You're not supposed to say, 'What?'" he said now. "You're supposed to say, 'Yes, Your Highness.'" He was in a good mood.
"I'm busy. I'm translating your instructions to M. Alpert." She paused. "Are you sure you want to put them in a letter?"
"Suppose the French police raid his office and find it?"
Prince Nick distrusted telephone switchboards, in case his competitors were bribing the operators to listen in, and since he spoke only Russian and German, she handled most of his foreign correspondence, which, she supposed, made her an accessory to corruption, tax evasion, not to mention fraud, all over Europe. But it was a job; she hadn't been able to get another.
"They won't. He's got the gendarmerie in his pocket." He blew out a redolent smoke ring. "And I've got the Polizei in mine."
His pockets were weighed down with them. His other cabaret clubs were popular with the high-rankers because he kept them discreet; politicians, judges, police chiefs, could cavort in privacy and did. Lists of members and their sexual preferences were kept under lock and key. There was a price, of course: they had to keep Prince Nick from prosecution they did that, too.