June 25, 2024


By Joseph Kanon
Joseph Kanon’s artful and compelling new thriller transports readers to 1930s Shanghai, the only city to let in Jewish refugees without a visa.
Share this Article:

Internationally bestselling author and Edgar Award-winner Joseph Kanon is known for his elegantly written, impressively immersive World War II thrillers, and Shanghai is no exception. 

In his fascinating and tautly suspenseful 11th novel, the author transports readers to 1939 Shanghai, where his characters, still reeling from Kristallnacht, are seeking safety in the only port city that doesn’t require a visa (and which ultimately offered a haven to some 20,000 European Jewish refugees during WWII).

As the story begins, Daniel Lohr, a German Jew, is traveling first class on the SS Raffaello, a luxury liner departing from Italy. So is Leah Auerbach, as well as hundreds of other Jewish passengers seeking a new start after the world they knew crumbled around them. When the ship first left shore, “For a second [Daniel] felt a stab of panic, no country, no money, but then as the boat began to slide away relief swept through him. Europe was going to destroy itself and he’d escaped.” 

Joseph Kanon didn’t tell anyone he was writing his first book.

While at sea, Daniel and Leah disappear into a passionate love affair that helps them push aside their pain and grief. But reality knocks in the form of their menacing fellow passenger Colonel Yamada, a higher-up in the Nazi-allied Japanese military police occupying Shanghai, as well as Leah’s conviction that survival in the metropolis is not assured. Daniel’s fate is more assured than most, though: His uncle Nathan, a jazz club and casino owner, has guaranteed him work and lodging in his new city. 

Alas, while Nathan is charming and clever, he’s also heavily involved in the criminal underworld, and Daniel soon finds himself contending with gang violence and wrestling with his uneasy moral compass. As he gains power in Shanghai, is he losing himself? Sure, as Uncle Nathan says, “The first rule was to survive,” but at what cost? 

Kanon conjures up the city’s veneer of glamour, and the danger and desperation festering beneath, with his trademark skill and verve. Shanghai artfully balances violence, romance and edgy suspense in a layered and compelling tale of an extraordinary place and time in human history.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book



By Joseph Kanon
ISBN 9781668006429

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.