Shadow and Light by Jonathan Rabb
A Novel

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 8 Critic Reviews



Berlin, between the two world wars. When an executive at the renowned Ufa film studios is found dead floating in his office bathtub, it falls to Nikolai Hoffner, a chief inspector in the Kriminalpolizei, to investigate. With the help of Fritz Lang (the German director) and Alby Pimm (leader of the most powerful crime syndicate in Berlin), Hoffner finds his case taking him beyond the world of film and into the far more treacherous landscape of Berlin’s sex and drug trade, the rise of Hitler’s Brownshirts (the SA), and the even more astonishing attempts by onetime monarchists to rearm a post-Versailles Germany. Being swept up in the case are Hoffner’s new lover, an American talent agent for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and his two sons: Georg, who has dropped out of school to work at Ufa, and Sascha, his angry, older son, who, unknown to his father, has become fully entrenched in the new German Workers Party as the aide to its Berlin leader, Joseph Goebbels.

What a spellbinding novel Shadow and Light is, and what a novelist Jonathan Rabb has become!

When we last met Hoffner, it was 1919, and he had taken on the disappearance and death of Rosa Luxembourg in Rosa, a novel the critic John Leonard hailed as “a ghostly noir that could have been conspired at by Raymond Chandler and André Malraux.” Shadow and Light is equally brilliant and atmospheric, and even harder to put down or shake off. Like Joseph Kanon or Alan Furst, Rabb magically fuses a smart, energetic narrative with layers of fascinating, vividly documented history. The result is a stunning historical thriller, created by a writer to celebrate—and contend with.


About Jonathan Rabb

See more books from this Author
Jonathan Rabb is the author of five novels: The Second Son, Shadow and Light, Rosa, The Overseer, and The Book of Q. He lives in Savannah, Georgia, with his wife and twin children.
Published March 31, 2009 by Sarah Crichton Books. 400 pages
Genres: History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Shadow and Light

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

Thyssen, like almost everyone else at Ufa, led a secret life involving a multiplicity of agendas, and before Hoffner can make sense of them all, he will find himself dealing with a surplus of bad guys.

Feb 15 2009 | Read Full Review of Shadow and Light: A Novel

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

Jonathan Rabb’s 2005 novel, “Rosa,” began with a tantalizing conceit: what if the murder of Rosa Luxemburg, the legendary Communist revolutionary found floating in a Berlin canal the year after Germany’s World War I defeat, wasn’t a killing by right-wing thugs, as commonly believed, but the resul...

Apr 16 2009 | Read Full Review of Shadow and Light: A Novel

Historical Novel Society

Hard-boiled chief inspector Nikolai Hoffner thinks he has seen all the dirt that 1927 Berlin has to offer until he is called to investigate a film executive’s apparent suicide in his office bathtub.

| Read Full Review of Shadow and Light: A Novel

MostlyFiction Book Reviews

The Americans knew that UFA “was after sound” and had come up with a device “which would revolutionize the way films are produced.” “Without sound all you have is shadow and light.

Jun 04 2009 | Read Full Review of Shadow and Light: A Novel

MostlyFiction Book Reviews

Fritz Lang and crime syndicate boss Alby Pimm are somehow induced to assist Hoffner in the investigation, which takes them into much murkier realms than mere murder and the demise of silent films.

Jun 04 2009 | Read Full Review of Shadow and Light: A Novel

California Literary Review

That said, it’s hard to imagine prose being more finely tuned in a film noir, especially against the backdrop of an unforgiving Berlin so much better seen in the shadows than in light.

Jun 17 2009 | Read Full Review of Shadow and Light: A Novel

The Jewish Chronicle

The ranks of good Jewish detective writers (Robert Towne’s screenplay for Chinatown, comes to mind, along with the Coen brothers and Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union) are fairly thin on the ground, reason enough to welcome Jonathan Rabb’s Shadow and Light, the second in his police trilo...

May 21 2009 | Read Full Review of Shadow and Light: A Novel

Library Journal

Morose, self-loathing Nikolai Hoffner, chief inspector in Weimar Berlin’s Kriminalpolizei, was first introduced inRosa, in which he investigated the murder of German Communist Rosa Luxemburg.

Feb 05 2009 | Read Full Review of Shadow and Light: A Novel

Reader Rating for Shadow and Light

An aggregated and normalized score based on 68 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review