Sunday, April 19, 2009

Book 41: City of Shadows

City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin

I admit that half the reason I picked this book up is because it was set in Berlin, and I've been there. The novel begins in Berlin in 1922. Esther, a young Russian Jewish woman with a mysterious past, is working for an "entrepreneur" who believes he has discovered one of the Grand Duchesses in a mental institution, Anastasia. Partially because he truly believes his assertion, and partially because he thinks there's money to be made, he takes her out of the institution, and sets Esther and her up in an apartment along with another one of his employees who used to work for the Romanovs as one of many servants.

Anna Anderson, as they call the Anastasia wannabe, believes that there is a murderer out to get her, and after an attack and two deaths in her surroundings, Esther does not doubt her. At this point, Detective Schmidt becomes involved and he traces the killer to a subdivision of the new political group, the Nazis, or specifically Ernst Rohm's SA. Esther knows this entire time that Anna is being targeted because of something she knows about the killer, not because she's the last surviving Romanov heir. Whatever the killer has done is so horrible that it would ruin his ascent in the party.

Due to circumstances, the investigation is halted, and the novel picks back up in 1932. Schmidt has been in Dusseldorf during these years, and the growing influence of the Nazis is surprising on his return to Berlin. Another death leads Schmidt and Esther back together to figure out everything. At this point, the book begins to overstay its welcome a little bit. First off, once Schmidt and Esther figure out what exactly the killer was hiding, it was a little disappointing - given what a monster he was supposed to be, it seemed like there should have been more to it. Additionally, once they knew who he was and what he'd done, I could have cared less if they caught him. I was much more interested in the Anastasia part of the story than the murder investigation once it was solved. Despite the fact that the last fifty to a hundred pages went on a little longer than I felt necessary, I still enjoyed the first half and the ending enough for the novel to be worth it. I was looking for an entertaining, light read and that's what I got. I'm not taking any of the historical stuff for a fact, although it was interesting, and maybe I will eventually read more about the topics it discussed.

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