Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

Berlin -1931

©1996-2013
womeninworldhistory.com

A Trace of Smoke

by Rebecca Cantrell

Berlin is still suffering under deprivations resulting from WWI, so Hannah Vogel is lucky to have her job writing local interest stories under the male pseudonym of Peter Weill. When she inadvertently sees a photograph of her beloved younger brother’s murdered body in the infamous “Hall of the Unnamed Dead,” her job takes second place to her determination to uncover the how and why of his death. While keeping her gay brother’s murder a secret (read the book to find out why), her dangerous investigations reveal the growing rise of the National Socialists, who are posed to gain the majority in the Reichstag. Nazi thugs roam the streets, harassing and beating Jews and gays. The city, in effect, lives not only with unemployment and scarce resources, but with deepening threats of right wing violence. We are kept guessing about whom Hannah should trust, and who might be the instigator of the increasing violence directed at her.

Cantrell wonderfully describes the atmosphere of 1930s Berlin while showing us places “few Berliners visited.” In a detailed Author’s Note, she discusses her research into the period, often referencing the years she lived in Berlin in the mid-and-late 1980s. Her lengthy Glossary provides additional information about the city and the times.

The introduction into Hannah’s life of Anton, a young seemingly orphaned boy, and a her growing love interest in Boris, her wealthy protector, signal the fact that this will not be a stand alone book. Another Hannah Vogel mystery has indeed followed with more undoubtable to come.

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