Set between the deportation of 12,000 Polish Jews from Germany in October 1938 and the Kristallnacht pogrom of November that year, the Nazi background of this novel is portrayed with a chilling sense of authenticity. Hannah Vogel is a Germany(Aryan) journalist from Berlin who has been forced to leave Germany after various run-ins with the Gestapo. But when she learns of a two-year old child left behind when her pregnant mother is deported to Poland, she is forced to return.
This is the fourth in the Hannah Vogel series but the first that I have read: it's not a problem coming to the series so late as the past is re-hashed well enough in this book though perhaps some of the nuances in the personal relationships would be better understood by reading the books in order.
There is much that I enjoyed about this book: the historical background (though there might perhaps be a little too much hindsight involved); the political and philosophical position that even one person by standing up to evil can still make a difference; the tense relationship between Hannah and Lars; the sense of danger in Berlin.
I did feel, however, that the `it's personal' plot becomes very far-fetched and is, frankly, a cliché of crime/mystery thrillers which I didn't expect in a book which is, in lots of ways, classier and more sophisticated than that.
But small plot niggles aside, I like Hannah's brisk voice with its sometimes mordant sense of humour, and the setting in the run-up to the Holocaust and WW2 is exceptionally well conveyed. This is a book which draws us very successfully into its dark world which yet still contains gleams of hope and humanity - and I'll certainly go back to read the earlier books in the series.
(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher).
and a better novel than both the second and third. Rebecca Cantrell returns to her Hannah Vogel series with "The City of Broken Glass". Set in Germany and Poland in 1938 - the "broken glass" refers to Kristallnacht. Cantrell began her series with a strong debut, "A Trace of Smoke", published in 2009. She created a strong protagonist in Hannah Vogel, a newspaper reporter in 1931 Berlin. Tossed between the current Weimar Republic and the growing Nazi presence in Germany, Hannah Vogel was given both a nuanced plot and identity. Unfortunately, the second and third books were more "Damsel in Distress" than strong protagonist. One of them even had a Zeppelin as a plot point; I'm sorry, but using a zeppelin sends any plot into immediate collapse.
Cantrell's fourth novel is actually almost as good as her first one. Hannah Vogel's still a "damsel in distress", but is more active in the plot - which involves being chased by Nazi villains from Poland, hiding out in a factory, and rescuing friends from the on-going "war against the Jews". "Broken Glass" has one of those plots that cannot be adequately described in a review. All the reader can do is hang-on as the action careens between Nazis and good guys. If you've read the previous three and liked the first one, you'll probably like the fourth one. However, Hannah's still not safe - she'll return for more in her next adventure.
on 17 May 2013
Once again Cantrell has set a cozy mystery - my favorite reading - in a horrifying time and place, with incredible results. Hannah Vogel first appeared in A Trace of Smoke as a Berlin crime reporter, and now lives in hiding as a travel writer from Great Britain (who performs the occasional job as courier/spy). In Poland to write an article, her strong sense of ethics leads her into danger when she interviews Jewish refugees forcibly deported from Germany. After that, there's no looking back as Hannah's fearlessness inadvertently involves here in one of the most horrific Nazi acts of the pre-war years: Kristalnacht. The historical milieu is haunting and exquisitely drawn, and Hannah's courage is inspiring. The mystery plot is clever and the pacing just right. I still hope for more of these brilliant books.