5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Rebecca Cantrell shows life in that "iffy" period in German history, the Weimar Republic, which preceded Hitler's official ascendency to power in 1934 as Chancellor under Hindenburg. Germany society had been restabilised from the low point of trillion-mark inflation of the '20's, but everyday life was still difficult, even for those, like Hannah Vogel, who had a job.
She was a newspaper reporter for Berliner Tagablatt, writing crime stories under an alias.
She's also a widow of a WW1 soldier, and the sister of a much-younger brother, Ernst, who is gay and works as a singer in a gay bar. He has many unusual friends and associates and one day winds up floating in the River Spee.
He's unidentified and his picture is posted on the wall at the "Alex", the main police station in Berlin, where Hannah sees it while going through police reports. She doesn't want to identify her brother, but begins to investigate his disappearance and murder. She gets involved with his many associates - some more shady than others - and begins to really see the political dynamics of the times.
It's a well-written novel - Cantrell's first - and I'd love to read more of her work.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
In the first of her Hannah Vogel series, Cantrell introduces her tough yet sentimental, morally-impeccable heroine. A German crime journalist, Hannah is single, independent, and prone to trouble-making. Here she gets embroiled in tracing the killer of her cross-dressing brother - and finds herself caught up in Nazi sex scandals.
I like this series, but this doesn't quite tip over into a 5-star book. Cantrell is excellent at creating the atmosphere of decadent and desperate 1930s Berlin, and the seedy nightclubs which flourished. Where this book falls down a little is in the saint-like Hannah: even though it's only 1931 and Hitler hasn't even been made Chancellor yet, Hannah already hates the Nazis (even though many of her friends don't, and see nothing wrong with dating one) with the kind of hindsight that we have. She's also loved by all her friends and acquaintances, even the occasional imprisoned forgery expert (handy for the plot), and the local newspaperman. She is happy to starve herself so that a child she's just met can have sweet treats to eat, and is constantly talking about how she's ready to sacrifice herself for... what, exactly?
So the characterisation of our heroine is a tad unsubtle, and configured to press too many obvious emotional buttons. Despite that, though, this is a series which deals with big issues in a generally intelligent and well-imagined way. Hannah is a little one-dimensional in moral terms in this book, a female version of that shining knight of chivalric romance, but given the darkening of Berlin at this time, Cantrell's need for an overly moral heroine can be forgiven.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2013
I came across Rebecca Cantrell as she co-wrote Blood Gospel with James Rollins. I read A Trace of Smoke and was not sure to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, i was worried i would not enjoy a book set in 1930s Germany. It is beautifully written, Hannah Vogel is a fantastic character. I cannot wait to read more about Hannah in the nest three books. The book blends accurate history of the era in which the book was set whilst keeps you getting as to who did what. I urge you all to order yourselves a copy of this book, you will soon believe you are actually in Berlin in Hannah's shoes. I really loved it
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2013
Rebecca has written and crafted a wonderfully tight plotted story set in Berlin 1930's. Hannah will draw you in with her refined tough character and leave you clambering for the next book.
I will not go into story detail because I hate reading reviews with them. That's what the inside jacket cover is for, but I will tell you this: This story has a great ending that will not disappoint. So many times I've read books and have been left with that 'so what' feeling. Not the case with Rebecca!!! She never cheats her fans!!!
Also have a look at her collaboration with James Rollins in Blood Gospel. I have never read a more perfectly intertwined collaboration than this book. You can clearly see both of them at work here. James with his technical prose and Rebecca with her subtle romance and charm. Simply splendid!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 May 2013
I found this book by accident while shopping at a garage sale. I picked it up,read the back cover and laid it down and looked at other things. Before leaving the garage sale I went back and picked the book up again and bought it. It's not something I would probably normally read just based on the back cover. I did read it and I loved it! It was one of the best books I had read in a very long time. It's set in Nazi Germany and blends fiction with real past history. I loved Hannah and her story and actually didn't want the book to end. Imagine how happy I was to find out there were three more Hannah Vogel books waiting for me to read!!! I've read all of them now and hope her story continues. You will love this book too!!
on 22 April 2013
Readers of historical mysteries have a phenomenal adventure ahead of them when they pick up Trace of Smoke, the first book in Rebecca Cantrell's fine Hannah Vogel series. I found myself transported to (and by) the world of 1931 Berlin. The boots of facism threaten to trample the flowering of science, art, cinema, medicine, philosophy that followed the Great War, and Germany accelerates toward the brink of darkness. Cantrell immerses me in the everyday realities of Hannah's life and losses as her city fragments into desperation, decadence, and danger. During Hannah's routine check of police files for stories she can pen as crime writer Peter Weil, she sees a new photo on the Wall of the Unnamed Dead that changes her life. It is the nude body of her murdered brother, a popular transvestite with a vamp's voice, a singer at the notorious gay bar, El Dorado.
Because Hannah and her brother loaned their identification papers to Jewish friends fleeing to America, Hannah cannot engage the police to solve the mystery of his murder. But, her quiet courage and steel self-control--cultured to endure her childhood and to teach her bother how to survive their father--are weapons she can use in her fight for the truth. A new relationship with a handsome, stable, and well-off banker complicates her mission, as well as the arrival on her doorstep of an orphaned waif who stoutly maintains she is his mother. Though the claim is ridiculous and the boy endearing, what is she to do with him? As her search to find her brother's killer takes her nearer and nearer to the core of the Nazi regime, she finds the boy is in peril, and she must risk everything she has and is to save him.
on 20 April 2013
I sat down on the evening my copy of A Trace Of Smoke arrived in the mail and started reading. I did not stop until I had finished. I even read the glossary and author's statement at the end, detailing her research. I love a good mystery, but I do not think that is the whole reason I found this book so compelling.
Certainly the plot is strong - a solid, intriguing, "play-fair" puzzle with subtle clues, parceled out just so. The heroine, Hannah, is incredibly resourceful, and toughened by a hard life. As a crime reporter she has seen the worst of human behavior. She thinks she has hardened her tender heart, but the depths of her compassion gives her a kind of courage that we might all aspire to. The other characters are equally vivid. The small boy - an abandoned waif - who steals her heart stole mine, as well. Rich details of life in Berlin as the Nazis rise to power are both beautiful and terrifying.
A Trace of Smoke has the perfect blend of intrigue, suspense, romance, terror, relief and tenderness. A strong plot, vivid characters, sensory details of place and time, are all woven together with the light touch of a master story-teller.
But this is not just a great read. There's something more important, and more compelling, here. This heroine (and the author) has the courage to look at the darkest moments in human behavior (and in the case of the author - of human history ) and scrutinize it. To shine the light of curiosity and criticism on dark deeds and dark times.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2013
I don't have time to read a lot of fiction so when I do, I want to make it worth my while. This novel had everything I needed: great characters, gripping story line, action, intrigue and a very interesting historical setting. It's a classic "can't put down page turner." The sequel, "A Night of Long Knives" was equally entertaining and I'm now ready to read book 3 "A Game of Lies." Looking forward to everything Cantrell publishes from now on!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2011
Berlin in the early 1930s is a dream setting for any thriller writer and Cantrell, though no Alan Furst, catches the decadence and desperation of the time very nicely. The story is good(ish) and most of the characters are plausible, although the depiction of the Nazi characters is just a little too black and white to make them anything other than stock baddies. Like in her later book, some of the plot devices used here feel rather slapdash and spoil what could have been a really good story. Vogel is an interesting character but both books have a sentimental element to them that is quite nauseating at times. If Cantrell spent half as much thinking about her plot as she does on the mother/child relationship she would have a cracker of a novel.
on 7 May 2013
I happened upon this book when I was stupidly early to meet a friend at a Starbucks back in Canada. The paperback version had just come out so the hardcover was in the "bargain book" section. Best bargain I ever found let me tell you!
The book caught me in the first sentence and never let me go. I have always been an avid WWII reader and have devoured anything surrounding the topic but I'd never come across historical fiction so well written and captivating that intrigues the reader with mystery and romance. I finished the book in two days and (lucky for me) the next book in the series (A Night of Long Knives) had already been released in hardcover! I raced back to the store and picked it up the next day.
Hannah Vogel is an amazing protagonist and not a fluffy character. She is a strong, independent woman who uses her individual agency and calm, logistical mind to solve captivating mysteries! I highly recommend this novel and would devour anything else Cantrell writes!