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.”
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“Bold narrator and chilling historical setting...an unusually vivid context, [lets] Hannah report on the decadence of her world without losing her life –or her mind.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A gritty realistic portrayal of 1930s Berlin…keeping the suspense high, Cantrell does an excellent job of projecting the fear of the time through her characters. Strongly recommended.”—Library Journal (starred)
“Set in 1931 Berlin, Cantrell’s scrupulously researched debut tolls a somber dirge for Weimar Germany in its last days…this unforgettable novel, which can be as painful to read as the history it foreshadows, builds to an appropriately bittersweet ending.”--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A compelling and human story that captures brilliantly the atmosphere of Berlin during the rise of the Nazis.”—Anne Perry, New York Times bestselling author of We Shall Not Sleep
“Step into the fun house world of 1931 Berlin where no one and nothing is what it seems…. A Trace of Smoke is compulsive reading with all the juiciness of the tawdry world of Cabaret but told with keen insight to the historical criminality taking place.”--Sara Colleton, executive producer of Dexter and The Painted Veil