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A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell
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A Trace of Smoke (edition 2010)

by Rebecca Cantrell

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2192253,142 (3.87)20
Member:natazouf
Title:A Trace of Smoke
Authors:Rebecca Cantrell
Info:Forge Books (2010), Edition: 1, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:policier, Hannah Vogel

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A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell

  1. 00
    The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: There's a sense of inevitability in these historical mysteries, which take place at the close (The Light in the Ruins) or just before (A Trace of Smoke) World War II and star female leads with personal ties to their investigations.
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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
I've heard nothing but good things about Rebecca Cantrell's Hannah Vogel series, and I finally decided that it was time to put all that praise to the test. A Trace of Smoke passed with flying colors. What a sense of place and time! Reminiscent of "Cabaret," yet so much more. Cantrell makes crystal clear the grinding poverty, the sense of desperation and hopelessness that the vast majority of Germans had to face each and every day. Looming over all is an almost overwhelming feeling of tension and dread-- mostly brought on by my own knowledge of what is to come. That, to me, is one of the strengths of this book: Cantrell doesn't spell out this foreboding; she knows enough to state the facts and let the readers supply it for themselves.

Hannah is hampered in what she can do to investigate her brother's death because of her lack of identification. The reason why she doesn't have it proves which side of the Nazi question she's on. Furthermore, yes, her brother Ernst's life was "exotic," but that isn't the real issue here. His presence is clearly felt throughout the book because of Hannah's love and grief. I felt I knew this young man even though he's never seen alive. Another strong character is little Anton. He's an extremely brave, intelligent little boy who's experienced too much during his five years on earth.

Hannah is both the strength and the weakness in this book. The picture she paints of her world is vivid. I experienced what she lived through as I read each chapter. But Hannah's inner thoughts are a bit clunky from time to time. Too many scenes end with her in tears or almost in tears. It's far from being a deal breaker for me. If I had to live through what Hannah did, I'd be exhausted and probably on the verge of tears even before my brother was murdered.

What matters is that I was completely lost in Rebecca Cantrell's setting, characters, and story. She shows the best and the worst of the German character. In A Trace of Smoke, decent Germans-- Jew and Gentile alike-- are set against the Nazis, and I have to know what happens next. ( )
  cathyskye | Jul 30, 2015 |
It's 1931 in Germany and the Nazis are on the rise, but not yet in control of the country. Hannah Vogel is a reporter who writes a regular crime column under the name Peter Weill. As she is looking at the photos of corpses in the Hall of the Unnamed Dead at a police station, she sees a picture of her brother, who has been stabbed in the heart. She can't report it to the police that her brother has been killed, because she and he have allowed their identity papers to be used by a Jewish friend who is fleeing the country, and they have not been returned to her yet. So, she starts investigating how he died. This brings her into his world – he was a gay, transvestite performer in a Berlin cabaret – and into great danger, because her brother is being treatened to return something to a powerful Nazi. And things get more complicated when a young boy shows up at her door, claiming that her brother is his father, and that she is her mother, with a birth certificate to prove it.
I mostly enjoyed this book. I like books set in this period and it gives a good sense of life in that time and place. ( )
  BillPilgrim | Jul 14, 2015 |
This book is basically the literary equivalent of a delicious bowl of ice cream. It has alllll the tropes: intrepid lady reporter, NAZIS, murdered drag queen, secret gay politicians, sexy rich sensitive gentleman with a yacht, priceless artifacts, the sudden appearance of a precocious orphan child and his teddy bear... it could be so cheesy but is actually wonderful and fun and exciting in all the best ways, thanks to the author's execution of the concept. It was the definition of a page-turner, too! A+ all around. ( )
  okrysmastree | Mar 1, 2015 |
Set in Berlin in 1931 the book describes a period not seen in many novels, the era between the massive inflationary years and pre the Nazis coming to absolute power.

You also rarely find such a strong female character as Hannah Vogel. A 30 year old crime reporter who has to write under a male pseudonym for her work to be taken seriously.

The story opens with her weekly visit to Police Headquarters where the Hall of the Unnamed Dead carries on its walls photos of unidentified bodies. Much to her horror she sees her brother's photo which leads her on a twisting and turning journey involving real life characters as well as fictional ones.

I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series.
( )
  mancmilhist | Aug 28, 2014 |
Really good! Rebecca really researched WWII and made it a captivating mystery. It also helps that she called and discussed the book with my book club! She was funny and helpful and informative! ( )
  sweetchuckie | Nov 26, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765320444, Hardcover)

Even though hardened crime reporter Hannah Vogel knows all too well how tough it is to survive in 1931 Berlin, she is devastated when she sees a photograph of her brother’s body posted in the Hall of the Unnamed Dead. Ernst, a cross-dressing lounge singer at a seedy nightclub, had many secrets, a never-ending list of lovers, and plenty of opportunities to get into trouble.

Hannah delves into the city’s dark underbelly to flush out his murderer, but the late night arrival of a five-year-old orphan on her doorstep complicates matters. The endearing Anton claims that Hannah is his mother… and that her dead brother Ernst is his father.

As her investigations into Ernst’s murder and Anton's parentage uncover political intrigue and sex scandals in the top ranks of the rising Nazi party, Hannah fears not only for her own life, but for that of a small boy who has come to call her “mother.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:33 -0400)

"Hardened crime reporter Hannah Vogel knows all too well how tough it is to survive in 1931 Berlin. Still, she is devastated when she sees a photograph of her brother's body posted in the Hall of the Unnamed Dead." "Ernst, a cross-dressing lounge singer in a seedy nightclub, had many secrets, a never-ending list of lovers, and plenty of opportunities to get into trouble. While attempting to maintain her budding romance with a handsome upstanding banker, Hannah delves into the city's dark underbelly to flush out the murderer who stabbed her beloved brother in the heart." "The late-night arrival of a five-year-old orphan on her doorstep complicates matters. The endearing Anton claims that Hannah's dead brother is his father and that, impossibly, she is his mother."."Now Hannah must find not only her brother's murderer but Anton's real parents, a task that seems impossible since all traces of his past have vanished. As her investigations uncover political intrigue and sex scandals in the top ranks of the rising Nazi party, Hannah fears not only for her own life, but for that of a small boy who calls her "Mother.""--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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