Berlin Noir fans, and readers of this blog well know, there are many authors
who have chosen to play in Philip Kerr's Berlin sandbox, but few do it as well
as Jonathan Rabb. SHADOW AND LIGHT
was my first Rabb novel and is the second (to date) featuring Kriminal-Oberkommissar Nikolai
Hoffner. It will not be my last.
only does Rabb go a great job of making pre-Nazi Berlin spring to life around
the reader in this tale of murder amidst the German film industry in 1927, but
he also peoples the tale with fleshed-out characters. The sights and sounds are
present but also, and, more importantly, the man-on-the-street feel of a people
tainted by crime as a means to get by. Everyone has an angle, betrayal is to be
expected. It's dog eat dog and the Nazi wolves are lurking in the shadows.
story kicks off with a UFA executive found murdered in his bathtub. Hoffner has
to walk a razor's edge between the studio suspects and organized crime when he
has no choice but to go to a gangster familiar to him for help as things get
too hot for him to handle. The trail soon leads to underground pornography, the
rise of the Nazis, clashes between Brown Shirts and Communists, and the
re-armament of Germany.
SHADOW AND LIGHT is a
captivating read. It does everything it sets out to do and does it very well. Plots
and sub-plots abound. The action is sparse but riveting. Hoffner, and his
sons... well, this isn't an episode of My Three Sons and their relationship is
painfully depicted, warts and all, as Hoffner tries to balance his personal and
Rabb is the best Berlin Noir author I've read since Philip Kerr got the ball
rolling with MARCH VIOLETS back
in 1989. His style is sparse and makes you pay attention. The novel gets a
little bogged down at the outset with Hoffner's back story, which is slightly
off-putting, but when the narrative kicks into high gear, the novel delivers.
looking to give Rabb a try might want to start with ROSA - the first Hoffner novel set in Berlin in 1919. I'll
be hunting up a copy of that one myself for a future Berlin Noir review. For
now, though, I give SHADOW AND LIGHT
my highest recommendation.
up at Berlin Noir will be SILESIAN
STATION by David Downing followed by K. W. Jeter's ebook, THE KINGDOM OF SHADOWS, a Berlin
noir novel that may have slipped beneath the radar of some readers. Until
next time, keep reading!