Berlin in the period after the wall came tumbling down in 1989. This is a city in flux, a landscape on which Inka Parei paints the story of Hell, The Shadow-Boxing Woman's central character.
Hell lives in the "gloomy rooms" of a decrepit apartment. Hers is a lonely existence: most of her neighbours have decamped to modern tower blocks.
When Dunkel (literally, Dark), the building's only other tenant disappears unexpectedly, Hell feels compelled to find her, beginning a zig-zagging trail across the concrete city that will eventually lead her to Markus Marz, a novice but successful bank robber.
All of this is punctuated by conversations that are as short as a Communist-era official statement: "Looks like you've robbed a bank?" says Hell when she first encounters Marz. "Yes, last Friday," he replies. Shame then what riches there are to be found in these pages are derailed by a calamitous printing error: much of the book's opening pages are reproduced word-for-word halfway through Parei's narrative.