City of Shadows
Ariana Franklin has written an intriguing, fast-paced thriller based on the life of Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed to be Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and the only survivor of the massacre of the Russian royal family in 1918. This highly imaginative version of the story begins in 1922, when “Prince” Nick, a shady Berlin nightclub owner, rescues Anna from an insane asylum, hoping to get a share in the Romanov fortune once Anna is recognized as Anastasia. His secretary, Esther Solomonova, a young Russian Jewish woman, becomes Anna’s companion. A serial killer threatens both Anna and Esther and then kills a nightclub employee. Inspector Schmidt, an honest, hardworking policeman, discovers that the murderer has ties to the rising Nazi party, and is determined to catch him, in spite of opposition from his colleagues, many of whom are throwing in their lot with the Nazis. Schmidt and Esther join forces to hunt for the killer and to protect Anna, and soon they become attracted to each other.
Franklin gives us a vivid picture of Berlin in the 1920s, a city suffering from horrible inflation, poverty, and unemployment. Her depiction of the Nazis’ rise to power is truly chilling, as former friends of Schmidt join the new party. People who know Anna Anderson’s story will probably complain about inaccuracy, but the author admits that she has taken many liberties. And – I do not want to give away too much – there is a wonderful surprise.