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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars

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on 5 July 2011
I sought out this book after reading the last of the late, lamented Ariana Franklin's wonderful medieval murder mysteries, not quite sure what to expect, but this is every bit as good.
It has all the trademarks of the Mistress of the Art of Death series: full of heart and humour, it's set in a realistic past yet with a totally believable modern heroine, with vivid characters, convincing relationships, an edge of the seat plot, expert scene setting, spare prose, and marvellous dialogue.
Who would have thought that there was any more mileage to be got out of the story of the woman claiming to be Anastasia, the only member of the Tsar's family to survive the Russian revolution? But she's given it a new twist with this, and the revelation at the end is just the cherry on the cake.
No book is perfect, of course: there are a couple of plot twists that don't quite stand up to scrutiny, and the final meeting with the villain is a bit of a let-down. But looking at some of the inexplicably popular dross that poses as good thriller writing these days (yes, Dan Brown, I'm talking about you) the only mystery is why this isn't selling by the thousand in every airport and supermarket too.
What a fantastic film it would make.
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on 14 June 2015
Why isn't this brilliant novel out on Kindle? Probably the best Anastasia mystery I've ever read.
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Ariana Franklin is the pseudonym of a well-known author of historical novels, Diana Norman, wife of the film critic Barry Norman. She is a former Fleet Street Reporter and lives in Hertfordshire.

Having read the author's other two books, the Mistress of the Art of Death and The Serpent's Tale, I decided to try this novel written before the above two. Although this book was an interesting read I cannot say that I enjoyed it as much as the above two, possibly because they were medieval novels, a period that I enjoy reading about very much.

However it would be unfair to criticise the book simply because of the period of history it depicts and all things being equal it was an enjoyable read. The storyline of the book takes place in Berlin, three or four years after the end of the war and revolves around a scheme to pass a young asylum patient off as Anastasia, the last surviving heir to the murdered Russian Czar . . .

The plot is both believable and inventive and the book is well written, in fact everything a reader could want from a good story.
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on 12 July 2009
I borrowed this book from my local library and found it so fascinating I had to buy my own copy. The fiction book combines fact with fiction, and focuses mainly on the Anna Anderson legend. I found all the characters intersesting, and the historical events and people very accurate. The story itself had lots of twists and turns, the biggest of all at the end. In all, this book is a must read.
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on 27 December 2005
Franklin combines skillful dialogue and plotting in a new take on the tragic history of Anastasia Romanov, the Russian princess who may or may not have been executed during the Russian Revolution. Central to the retelling are the female perspectives on discounted lives, sexual battery, and the reduction of women to pawns in an ongoing clash of egotistical, cynical, and predatory males. By setting the story in an unstable post-war environment, Franklin enlarges on the social and political situations that further denigrate women as citizens and human beings. Don't miss this one.
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on 19 May 2011
Set in a depressed pre-War Berlin, the writer weaves a web of stalking suspense, involving two main characters drawn together by their courage, sexual attraction, and a quest to find a psychotic murderer - who strips them both of people who become too close.

Although in many ways a dark and terrible time, graphically narrated by this master of thrillers, she tempers the story with believable characters, witty dialogue and a rare talent for earthy comedy. Without giving away too much of the plot - the still unsolved mystery of the alleged Romanov survivors, especially the notorious "Grand Duchess Anastasia" is the weft and warp which binds the people (some real, some invented) in the plot together.

We, the 21st Century readers, have the benefit of historical hindsight. The world then was ripe for revolution...German people had struggled through a War which had left them utterly dispirited; suspicious (as some folk are now) of immigrants fleeing from worst conditions in Russia, Poland and other Eastern block regimes. There were all the ills of deprivation for the less well-off: sickness, grief, starvation, racism... to name but a few.
The power hungry Hitler and his SS henchmen exploited this, as well as devising their evil solution to anti-semetism - they were ruthless in their methods. Some of the events do seem far-fetched, but truth IS often stranger than fiction. The author has artist's licence to embellish where necessary......

The writer gives an overview of the relentless overthrow of the "Old Law" to be replaced by another Law - much less to do with justice. A kind of justice does prevail...but it does leave you wondering about present events.

I would recommend wearing gloves as you read this.....!!!
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on 4 July 2012
It may sound exaggerated, but while reading this book I thought to myself that this was perhaps one of the best books I've ever read. It was gripping. A story of suspense, with the reader's knowledge of what was coming. A love story, a murder mystery, a historical novel with the ominous and spellbinding rise to power of the Nazi Party in the background, a tight plot and writing that truly makes you feel that you were there. Don't miss this book. I enjoyed the Mistress of the Art of Death series by this author, but this book is on an entirely different plane. It's extraordinary!
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on 9 May 2011
This woman, Ariana Franklin, is a vicious hypocrite.

The book isn't great, for a start. Hitler posing for snapshots on the day he became Chancellor as if he had nothing better to do? I ask you! And we are asked to believe that Polish countrymen would know or care that King Henry I of England died after a surfeit of lampreys? The so-called twist at the end is the most contrived and unlikely coincidence I have ever seen outside of Victorian fiction.

There are a lot of ties left unanswered in the plot. I got the impression, therefore, the book was written hurriedly in order to meet a publisher's deadline or substantially rewritten just before publication.

Who does this woman think she is, demonizing the Poles? Does she not realise that for one thousand years Poland was the ONLY nation in Western Christendom which not merely tolerated Jews but permitted them equal rights and citizenship? One early Polish King, Boleslaw the Pious, even faced excommunication for his humanity to his Hebrew subjects. Poland was even known among Jews and Poles alike as Europe's "Paradise for Jews". Has this woman not heard of Maximilian Kolbe and Irina Sandler - just two of many Poles who risked or even gave their lives sheltering Jews in occupied Poland?

This woman clearly loathes the fact that Jews have been demonized for centuries, and yet she thinks it's absolutely acceptable to demonize other races! Demonizing an entire race, whether it be the Jews, Poles, Scots, English, Dutch or whoever, is a nasty, vicious and despicable thing to do.

My great-grandfather died at Aushwitz. I find it grossly offensive that this woman tries to excuse the Germans their crimes on the grounds that they were harshly treated after World War 1. France was cruelly treated after the Franco-Prussian War - thousands died from malnutrition during and after the siege of Paris, and France was forced to pay crippling war reparations - but the French didn't found a Nazi party! Ariana Franklin also fails to note that the Germans had operated their first "death camp" in their African colony, Namibia, where half a million Africans were murdered in the first decade of the 20th century - long before Ariana Franklin can use the hardships of the Weimar Republic as an excuse.

This was the first book I read by this author. Assuredly, it will be the last.
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on 11 February 2010
I've read her previous historical murder novels set in medieval times and really enjoyed them, but was not looking forward as much to this one which is set in Weimar Germany [even though I am a History teacher]. However,I found it as fascinating and well researched as the others. She is a very good writer, probably because of her journalistic background, and does not use 14 words when three will do, or write pages of unnecessary description, feelings etc.
In other words she tells a good story.
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on 9 February 2010
Finished this book a few weeks ago and still thinking about it. Ariana Franklin has served up a fantastic tale revolving around the appearance in Berlin of a woman claiming to be Anastasia Romanov. I loved the main character Esther, and the setting of Berlin during the rise of Hitler was fascinating. I found as the book went on I was worrying more and more about what would become of Esther and the other characters in the book. Can't rate this book highly enough.
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