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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 March 2009
As a big fan of Phillip Kerr's "Berlin Noir" series, I'm always interested to read more crime fiction set in Weimar-era and wartime Germany. This 1927-set crime novel also features the German film industry, which is another interest of mine, so it seemed totally up my alley. Things kick off when Berlin police chief inspector Nikoli Hoffner is sent out to the UFAstudio's campus to investigate a suicide. From the very start, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was some larger backstory to Hoffner that I had missed out on. And that, indeed, is the case: Hoffner was the protagonist of Rabb's earlier book, Rosa. That helps to explain a great deal of my dissatisfaction with Hoffner's character and some of the plot points, and so I would strongly recommend reading Rosa before picking this up.

This book is filled to the rim with intricate plotting based partly on the real-life "Phoebus Affair", as the murder leads Hoffner into a very confusing stew of industrial espionage, sexual debauchery and blackmail, the early days of National Socialism, and Berlin's dirty underbelly of gangsters, junkies, and thugs (not to mention cameos by Fritz Lang,Peter Lorre,Joseph Goebbels, and Alfred Hugenberg). Various corpses continue to appear along the way, as Hoffner stolidly picks away at the various strands that ultimately lead back to the Treaty of Versailles. Mixed up in all this is a sharp-tongued American dame of mysterious motives, whom Hoffner finds himself drawn to. There's also a running subplot involving Hoffner's strained attempts to connect with his two sons, one a teenager working at UFA, the other, a protege of Goebbels.

While I was immersed in the dark moody world Rabb is able to bring to life, the story never quite coalesced into anything I could really grab a hold of. Alan Furst's novels of espionage capture the same tone, but are able to bring more solid storytelling to the fore. Here, the plotlines wander around bumping into each other, but by the end it's not clear what the point of it all is. (Nor is it at all clear in some cases how Hoffner makes various deductive leaps.) And as mentioned earlier, some key relationships (such as that between Hoffner and the gangster Alby Pimm, or Hoffner and his sons) are rather cryptic unless one has already read Rosa. It doesn't help that everyone speaks to each other in very clever banter that is entertaining to read, but feels more of the movies than real life. By the end, the book's channeling of Furst, Kerr, Isherwood's Berlin Novels, and The Maltese Falcon left me a more wearied than entertained.
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on 29 June 2017
Atmospheric thriller with strong sense of time and place.
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on 13 May 2009
In my highly subjective opinion, Jonathan Rabb is the best writer of intelligent and highly authentic thrillers in print today. He creates stories of immense intricacy that always reach a satisfactory conclusion, and his sense of atmosphere, character and event is astonishing.

Shadow and Light is the second Rabb novel to feature Chief Inspector Nikolai Hoffner, the widowed Kripo detective estranged from his sons, who possesses an uncanny eye for detail and an amazing breadth of perspective, and yet who finds it hard to combat his own inner demons and self-destructiveness.

The story is set in Berlin in the late twenties; the city is at its decadent height but all around the signs of danger from incipient fascism are evident, signs that bode ill for the city, for Germany as a whole, and, because of his Jewish mother, for Hoffner in particular. That the reader has this knowledge adds a power and poignancy to the story overall.

In Shadow and Light a murder at a film studio leads Hoffner on a trail that takes in the film director Fritz Lang, the newspaper magnate Alfred Hugenberg and the shadowy Joseph Goebbels. He is hindered from time to time by family worries - his younger son has bunked off school to work at the film studios and his older son is mixed up with the Brownshirts.

Hoffner pursues the case with help from the gloriously sinister Alby Pimm, and although he solves his case he ends up no better than he was before it began.

Jonathan Rabb continues to delight with this second novel from Germany between the two World Wars, and it is to be hoped that there is at least one more Hoffner tale before he is engulfed by the tide of history.
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on 15 April 2014
It was a struggle to finish this book. It deals withe especially unsavoury characters and the plot is rather tortuous. I was fascinated by the idea of reading a book about this particular period but found it quite revolting.
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on 13 December 2012
I'm review the three books in the Triology . Unfortunately I read Rosa last however that was my mistake and it took little from the overall read.
It's a matter of taste but his style of writing I find easy to read. I read these for leisure but the historical facts appear to be accurate. Collectively I'd give them 5, of the three Rosa was the best read.
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on 2 May 2014
The continuing story of the inter war period political crime story set in Berlin, it continues to feature the main character Nikolai Hofner working under the Nazi SS, enfevouring to solve a series of murders. The continuity works well if one started with the Rosa story.
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on 28 April 2014
Good evolving plot but difficult to associate and warm to the characters. Plays with the historical chert to follow but fails to provide real insights and hooks.

Despite this enjoyable!
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on 23 September 2013
Convoluted plot line, but atmospherically set in the Berlin of the inter-war, early years of the rise of the National Socialists. Highly recommended.
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on 16 June 2015
Very well written as regards atmosphere and period. The plot got a bit convoluted. I will be reading the next book in the series.
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on 2 April 2014
Conveys the darkness creeping over Germany with the rise of the Nazi party very amospheric, a wonderful follow on from Rosa
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