Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Rebecca Cantrell's first novel A Trace of Smoke, which featured Berlin crime reporter Hannah Vogel, won great reviews as well as the Bruce Alexander Memorial Award for best historical mystery.

My interview with Rebecca: part one, part two, part three, part four.

Hannah Vogel's next adventure A Night of Long Knives is set in the summer of 1934 three years after the events related in A Trace of Smoke.

Hannah is asked to write about a zeppelin journey from South America to Switzerland. She had vowed never to set foot in Germany as long as the Nazis were in power, but Ernst Rohm, leader of the SA [Brownshirts], her dead brother's former lover, has the zeppelin diverted.
Hannah and Anton are kidnapped and separated by Rohm's agents. He claims Anton, Hannah's foster son, is his child and wants to use him and a bogus forced marriage to Hannah to protect himself from paragraph 175 of the German penal code.
Rohm's open homosexuality is being used by his enemies in an attempt to destroy his considerable power.
But before the marriage can take place Rohm, suspected by Hitler of high treason, and thousands of his brownshirt storm troopers, are murdered in the purge known as the Night of the Long Knives.
Hannah evades capture and travels to Berlin in a desperate quest to find Anton before the SS eliminate him, because of his supposed connection with Rohm.

Rebecca Cantrell has written another exciting thriller and with Hannah Vogel's sometimes frenetic first person narrative she gives the reader a feeling of what it must have been like to be in Germany during those terrible years. She has cleverly blended her fictional story in with real life events and real life characters, such as British journalist Sefton Delmer, while cleverly imparting snippets of information that add to the atmosphere.

"Do you know where that church is?"
Only a Bavarian would ask that question. The neo-Gothic Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was a Berlin landmark near the zoo, home to weddings of the rich and famous, including Marlene Dietrich.

A Night of Long Knives might be just considered just another adventure story, albeit with a very attractive heroine, but perhaps we should see beyond the simple thriller to some of the subject matter.
Political figures still hide their sexuality, even in our modern liberal society, and in recent years dictators still eliminate their former associates, relatives and closest friends.

In June 1934 during the Night of the Long Knives Hitler, Goering, Himmler and the SS had murdered Ernst Rohm, Hitler's oldest friend, Gregor Strasser, father of Hitler's godchildren, Kurt von Schleicher, former Chancellor of Germany, and his wife, and numerous other high ranking officials including associates of Franz von Papen, Hitler's vice-Chancellor.

Old scores, and perceived slights, were settled in an orgy of blood letting, and yet the Olympic Games were allowed to take place in Berlin a mere two years later.

I am looking forward to the next installment of the adventures of Hannah, which will be set in 1936 during those Berlin Olympics.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - Thanks for this excellent review. As you know, I like historical mysteries and thrillers, so this one sounds especially good. Interesting, isn't it, how some things (e.g. your comment about politicians and other major figures) never seem to change...

6:37 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Margot-I would try and read A Trace of Smoke first, as although Long Knives can be read by itself I did enjoy the first book a little more.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

This sounds really intriguing, Norman. You very kindly sent me a copy of the first book so I really must get on and read it - I am very tempted on the basis of this excellent review.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Maxine-A Trace of Smoke won the Bruce Alexander History Award and I see on the Rap Sheet has just been nominated for the Sue Feder History award as well. I have the heroine Hannah Vogel clearly in my mind as the actress Carice van Houten in Black Book which certainly makes me enjoy the books more.

4:20 AM  
Blogger Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Me too have fall into temptation, Norman and a pleasure to read your reviews.

4:13 AM  

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