Although I have read and liked books from Ariana Franklin’s “Mistress of the Art of Death” mystery series, I think that City of Shadows, a stand-alone thriller about a different period, is particularly good. On a side note, I am sorry to hear that Ariana Franklin has died, so we will never learn what her plans were for the characters in her series.
Esther Solomonova is a mysterious scarred woman who works for the phony Russian prince and nightclub owner Nick Potrovskov in 1920’s Berlin. However, the book begins a step before we get to Esther, when a woman is being chased through the streets of Berlin and dives into a canal to get away. Nick hears that this woman, Anna Anderson, is claiming to be Grand Duchess Anastasia of the murdered Romanov family, so he decides to take her under his wing in the hopes of getting a share of the Tsar’s fortune that has been left in England.
Anna is in an asylum, and the inmates claim that every six weeks a man lurks outside, trying to get a chance to murder her. After Nick removes her from the asylum, people begin dying. Only Detective Schmidt pays attention to Esther’s theory that someone is trying to kill Anna, since the only evidence is the testimony of insane people.
Franklin does a convincing job of mixing the true story of Anna Anderson with the completely fictional murder plot. She evokes a real sense of the chaotic, anarchic, starving Berlin in the time in which Hitler is coming to power.