Monday, May 09, 2016

City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin

We are coming up on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which resulted in the murder of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, and their children.  From the beginning, some wondered whether anyone could have survived the massacre.  While that question has been pretty much settled by modern DNA analysis, in the 1920's it was widely rumored that the Grand Duchess Anastasia, youngest daughter of the Tsar, had survived.

The 'survival' of Anastasia is a well known story. Ingrid Bergman made a movie about it, and there was a cartoon version in the 90's.  And it is the basis for Ariana Franklin's excellent historical mystery, City of Shadows.

Esther Solomonova is a Russian Jew living in Berlin in the 1920's.  Badly scarred from an attack in her native Russia, Esther is an educated, intelligent woman with a drive to survive that leads her to seek employment with "Prince" Nick, who is using his status  to build a somewhat dodgy nightclub empire.  When he becomes aware of the existence of an unknown woman in a mental hospital with an uncanny resemblance to the Grand Duchess Anastasia, he sees his chance to get his hands on some of the Romanov fortune.

There are obstacles to his plan.  Anna is a diamond in the rough at best.  Nick sets her up in a flat with Esther to teach her to behave like a princess, but it's slow going.  And there is a man, a big man, who has been watching Anna since her days in the institution.  When people around Anna start to die, Esther and Police Inspector Siegfried Schmidt find themselves caught up in a mystery that goes far beyond the fate of the Romanovs.

Set in the 1920's and early 1930's as Germany struggled first with economic depression and then with the rise of Adolf Hitler, City of Shadows is a compelling tale of murder and intrigue.  To find out more about the true story of Anastasia and her family, check out The Last Days of The Romanovs by Helen Rapaport.

Review by Becky D.

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