Thursday, June 16, 2011


Rebecca Cantrell's outstanding debut novel A Trace of Smoke, featuring her feisty crime reporter Hannah Vogel, won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Award for best historical mystery. Hannah Vogel returned in the second book A Night of Long Knives desperately searching for her adopted son Anton, as Hitler in an orgy of killing settles old scores with those around him.

The voice of the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron de Coubertin, boomed out of the loudspeakers. My French had improved since the move to Switzerland, so I did not need to wait for the translation:
" The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning, but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering, but fighting well."

In the third book in this superb series A Game of Lies Hannah returns to Berlin for the 1936 Olympics posing as a Swiss reporter Adelheid Zinsli and lover of SS officer Lars Lang. Hannah has been collecting Nazi secrets from Lang and smuggling them back to Switzerland and sending them on to London.
Hannah arranges to meet her mentor, Peter Weill, at the Olympic Stadium, but he dies in front of her.

"There is a certain package that she can't deliver. But you can."

Hannah will risk her life as she contacts old friends some of whom may in fact be new enemies as she attempts to find that package. He relationship with Boris has broken down over her repeated dangerous trips to Nazi Germany, and all she has is her beloved Anton living safely in Switzerland, and the fabricated relationship with Lars Lang. Is Lang genuinely anti-Nazi? What work does he do for the SS that leaves him seeking solace in the bottle?

A Game of Lies is a meticulously researched historical thriller written in the first person present tense which brings high tension and immediacy to the narrative. Author Rebecca Cantrell blends real life characters such a Berlin socialite Bella Fromm into her fictional story. And I really liked the way she has added some glimpses of young Anton and his life at school in Switzerland.

Exactly the honor code to which Anton subscribed, as did his hero, Winnetou the Apache brave from Karl May's books.
[Among the admirers of Karl May's best sellers were Albert Einstein and Adolf Hitler]

The story is a thriller but also raises some emotional questions for Hannah Vogel especially when she visits her old friends, Fritz and Bettina.

Now she spoke so casually of sending them off to be indoctrinated. Would I have become so inured to the Nazis that I would have sent Anton marching off in a brown uniform so easily had we stayed?

A Game of Lies does something some books fail to do, it successfully conveys the atmosphere of fear prevailing in Nazi Germany. It also relates, amidst the thrilling spy story with its twists and turns, the background story of an Olympics that is thankfully remembered more for Jesse Owens four gold medals than the Nazi propaganda.
I can highly recommend the Hannah Vogel series, and A Game of Lies is a worthy addition.

Award winning author Rebecca Cantrell majored in German, Creative Writing and History at the Freie Universitaet of Berlin, and Carnegie Mellon University. She lives in Hawaii with her husband and son.

My review of A Night of Long Knives with links to my four part interview with the author.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - A fine review - thank you :-). I like Hannah Vogl and you're quite right that Cantrell writes an excellent historical thriller. This one's just gone up on my TBR "must read" list.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

Sounds like a fascinatingly inventive book, Norman. I must read the first of these, which you kindly sent me a long time ago and which is still on the shelf....seems like a very good series.

6:49 AM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Oh gosh, my nemesis, reading about WWII in fiction, with a great woman character yet!

I might try but anything with Nazi horror, I try to avoid, even though this would be at the top of the list if I read this book genre.

Heard, read and know too much about WWII. (And my grandparents' city of origin in Poland was devastated; the Jewish population went from tens of thousands to less than 100)

If it were science fiction, maybe I'd try, but it's based on reality.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Margot and Maxine.

Kathy I do very much respect your stand, but here in the UK we have political parties with policies that make it essential that people remind themselves of what can happen to a civilized country when things go wrong.

The last Labour government drove the country to the brink of bankruptcy, and now the other two parties Cons and Lib Dems in coalition are trying to complete the process. All these three political parties seem to despise the population for simply wanting rubbish collected, children educated, hospitals sorted, and secure jobs before we increase our aid to India, and get involved in a civil war Libya.

4:19 AM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I agree with you that people need all of the above services (and jobs, here, too; 14 million unemployed, companies are not hiring, millions underemployed or dropped out altogether), and the top parties are not helping matters.

And I am against my own government being involved in any wars or "drone dropping," much rather the billions of dollars be spent on jobs and services here.

And people need reminding. I'm for it. I wish more people here read these books, and that no one succumbed to the so-called Tea Party and bigotry of all kinds.

I grew up with the spectre of WWII and what happened to the Jewish (and other) peoples and countries. I can't distance myself from it.

As I said, one side of my family came from Poland, a city which was devastated and few Jewish people left.

I am for these books getting out and being read -- and a lot more in the States which are politically astute and tell the truth about history and today.

There are just certain themes I can't read, although I wish I could, but I'm for everyone reading books and history like this series -- and Lawton's, Kerr's and Furst's. I think I covered the top WWII mystery writers.

Today came the news over here that the top national seniors organization, through which millions get Medigap coverage, is okay with cuts to Social Security benefits. (This news on a day where my electricity bill went up for no reason.)

I'm with you.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks very much Kathy.
Someone on Twitter recently made the ironic statement about the Scottish Nationalist party- a blend of socialism and nationalism, what could go wrong.
Education is absolutely vital especially with the world heading into another deep recession similar to 1929-1932.
As well as the novels of Lawton, Furst, Kerr and Cantrell, there are two non fiction books I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to know more about these events:
The Great Escape-Nine Jews who fled Hitler and changed the World by Kati Marton;

History on Trial-My Day in Court with David Irving by Deborah Lipstadt.

2:24 AM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yvette has books over at her Yvette Can Draw website which are on WWII, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which my parents had for years. And she lists Is Paris Burning?

I was in a particularly bad mood yesterday as the news came that businesses here aren't hiring and may lay off more people, 14 million are unemployed (of those still kept track of), 50% unemployment for youth for summer.

And AARP, our seniors group of tens of millions of seniors and disabled said they won't oppose cuts in Social Security, which, by the way hasn't been raised in two years.

And, as is true all over, our rent, electricity, cable, phone bills have gone up. And so are food costs -- this, shockingly.

And more weapons, missiles, all that money for destruction instead of for health and dental care, education (all grades), childcare (my mayor cut 16,000 childcare subsidized slots and 6,000 teachers' jobs), pensions, housing, food programs (now proposal in Congress to cut hundreds of millions in food aid, including to pregnant women and babies!), etc.

And an article in the NY Times yesterday said children who receive SCHIP public health care have to wait 22 days to be seen for serious illnesses by doctors, like diabetes.

So, GRRR, yes, it's bad.

I'm buried though in Vigata with Montalbano, Catarella and Livia (it's like sticking my head in the sand) and about to go to Manhattan after that to see Nero Wolfe (hilarious books). No stress now, just humor.

4:53 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Kathy I know how you feel but my day was made yesterday when our PM and Deputy PM [two rich boys playing at government] were thrown out of a hospital ward by an orthopaedic surgeon, because their camera crew hadn't scrubbed up. A pathetic attempt at a photo shoot gone wrong.

5:17 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

check comment working.

9:27 AM  

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