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Shadow and Light: A Berlin Trilogy
 
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Shadow and Light: A Berlin Trilogy [Format Kindle]

Jonathan Rabb

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Berlin 1927: when an executive at the newly-famous Ufa film studios is found dead in his bath, it falls to Chief Inspector Nikolai Hoffner, of the Kriminalpolizei to investigate. With the help of the German film director Fritz Lang and the head of the most powerful crime syndicate, Hoffner finds his case reaches deep into Berlin’s sex and drug trade, and into the political world of Hitler’s Brownshirts (the SA). Caught up in this story is Hoffner’s new lover, and his two sons, one of whom works for Joseph Goebbels. We last met Hoffner in Rosa (2007); his relationship with his sons develops menacingly in Shadow and Light.

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Amazon.com: 3.9 étoiles sur 5  61 commentaires
34 internautes sur 35 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Caught on Film 2 janvier 2009
Par Roger Brunyate - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
As he had done in ROSA (the only other novel of his that I have read), Jonathan Rabb paints a wonderfully dark picture of Berlin in the twenties: drugs and alcohol amid the detritus of war, sexual excesses in the cabarets, and a gangster culture semi-tolerated. Ordinary working people, resentful and forgotten, are easily stirred by the rival forces of communism and the nascent Nazi party. Chief Inspector Nikolai Hoffner, Rabb's antihero, threads a twisting path through this maze, which sometimes seems like a visit to the underworld.

Rabb's feeling for noir is appropriate here, since this novel centers around the German film industry, whose leading director, Fritz Lang, known as "the master of darkness", had just completed his monumental METROPOLIS. Lang is only one of some dozen real figures who appear in the novel, and not just in cameo roles either. Because Rabb is not writing a whodunnit -- even though the book begins with Hoffner being called to investigate a mysterious death at the Berlin film studios, UFA -- he can plunge even his real figures quite deep into the mud, knowing that little of it will ultimately stick. This is both the fascination of the book and its ultimate disappointment, because although people are more or less sorted into their respective camps by the end, very little light shines through the darkness -- the implication being that the shadows will continue to deepen right through the next decade.

This is not always an easy book to read. The early pages involve more of Hoffner's back story than first-time readers may find approachable. It can be difficult to pick up cross-references even within the book itself; Rabb's style is episodic rather than linear. Then there are an unusual number of plot strands: pornographic movies, the introduction of the talkies, struggles between UFA and MGM, postwar rearmament, and the early activities of the Nazis. Even at the end, it is not clear how these all fit together. But Hoffner is an interesting character, and his involvement with Leni Coyle -- an American talent agent who may well have other motives for being in Berlin -- keeps both him and the reader on their toes. For me, though, the sequences that gave the book the most humanity were those involving Hoffner's two sons, especially the way the investigation brings him closer to the younger one, an absent father trying to make up for lost time.
17 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A great historical thriller 16 janvier 2009
Par Jeffrey Phillips - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Shadow and Light is an exceptionally interesting book, written about the period of time of the Weimar Republic and the ensuing rise of the Nazi party. Nominally it concerns the apparent suicide of a move studio executive and the investigation by a chief inspector, but it unfolds as so much more.

The investigation leads the inspector in a number of different paths, including the development of sound in the film industry, the rise of Goebbels and others in the Nazi party and the re-arming of the German Army. The investigation is fast paced and involves a beautiful femme fatale. One is never quite sure which side (of several) she is working for. The inspector plays a bit too close to type - too tired, too world weary, too all-knowing, and yet too often unable to bring all the pieces together.

In many ways this book reminds me of some of Alan Furst's writings, which are all prologues to the Second World War. The author weaves together a number of interesting story lines, especially about the competition between the US and German film industries, and the rise of the Nazis and their propaganda machine. I would have enjoyed a bit more about the period, as the Weimar Republic is a fascinating time in history, stuck between two wars as Germany struggles with governance and recovery.

The book is written in a style that reveals little, and it forces the reader to pay attention. The plotting unfolds slowly, and the number of intertwined story lines can be a bit murky at times, but this is an excellent read.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Berlin: 1927 13 janvier 2009
Par Frank J. Konopka - Publié sur Amazon.com
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This book is a sequel, of sorts, to "Rosa" which took place in Berlin in 1919. Now it is 1927 and Nikolai Hoffner, the protagonist of both novels, is still working the seamy side of crime. An apparant suicide at the Ufa studio outside Berlin involves Hoffner once again in a tangled web of lies and conflicting interests. You don't necessarily have to have read the first book to enjoy this one, but it would certainly help to understand the history and motivations of the characters. I found the plot(s) very convoluted and, at times, difficult to follow, which is why I gave this book 4 stars rather than 5. The author certainly has the knack for recreating a time and place that makes the reader feel a part of the situation. Hotels, buildings, stores, restaurants, etc., all have the ring of authenticity. This is a bleak book, as was the first, but that does not make it any the less interesting to read. It would help to have read the first book, but this one can also be taken as a stand alone. It's well worth the read, and I highly recommend it!
11 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Ultimately More Wearying than Entertaining 18 mars 2009
Par A. Ross - Publié sur Amazon.com
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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 UFA studio'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 Stories, and The Maltese Falcon left me a more wearied than entertained.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Big Ball of Yarn. 12 janvier 2009
Par A* - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
I have been a film noir freak for ages, for the vast majority of my life. And it is not easy to nail down on the page. Raab gets it. He understands the fast motorboat speed dialogue needed to push it into a page turner and he lays out a wonderfully complicated tale that has wonderful twists and turns.

But don't be mistaken, the book is, at times, a daunting read. Raab jumps right in and expects the reader to be able to take snapshots of a series of events, just like a roving movie camera would through some corrupt underground world. The murder is just a set up for Hoffner and Raab to play with the setting. Raab throws at the reader a world dripping with corrupt excess, drugs, women, death - all the trademarks of trench and fedora styled film noir. And that is what makes Light and Shadow so good. It is dripping in atmosphere. It is the main focus of the work, like most if not all great film noir reads.

My only disappointment with this book is that I wanted more of it.
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