One of my favorite types of mystery is the historical mystery set during or around World War II. Usually set in Europe. I have read all or parts of many series set in this time period. My favorites are the John Lawton series about Inspector Troy of London, which blends police procedural with espionage thriller (in some of the books), and the Philip Kerr series about Bernie Gunther, an ex-cop turned private detective in Germany. Rebecca Cantrell's series, set in the years between World War I and World War II, stars Hannah Vogel, a crime reporter in Berlin. It is very different from the others I have read... at least based on this first novel, A Trace of Smoke.
One obvious difference is the female protagonist. The story is told in first person, and coming from a woman's viewpoint, it has to have a different feel. Hannah is driven, but she is in emotional turmoil from the beginning of this book, because she has just discovered that her younger brother is dead. She spends the rest of the book unraveling the mystery of his death.
First, let me say that I loved this book. The problem is, the more I like a book, the harder I find it to write a review. If I have problems with a book, I can describe those more easily.
While reading the first half of this book, I was not so sure. I wasn't sure I liked the author's style of telling the story. But at the halfway point, all of a sudden I was hooked by the story, by the character; the last few chapters were a roller coaster ride. The book did not end at all like I expected, and I liked the ending a lot. I wanted to pick up the next book immediately. (Which I could not do... I have other reading commitments. But soon, very soon.)
This seems to be a very real picture of Germany in 1931. Nazi soldiers discourage Germans from shopping in Jewish businesses. There are several scenes set in El Dorado, a gay bar in Berlin that really existed, showing the decadence of that side of Berlin nightlife.
Per the biography at the author's website: "Fluent in German, she received her high school diploma from the John F.
Kennedy Schule in Berlin and studied at the Freie Universität in Berlin
and the Georg August Universität in Göttingen before graduating from
Carnegie Mellon University." It appears she has done a lot of research for this series.
This book belongs to my husband and he has the entire series (four books so far). He has read three of them and liked the books a lot. The third was his favorite, so I am looking forward to continuing the series.