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A Trace of Smoke (Hannah Vogel #1)

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  1,396 Ratings  ·  263 Reviews
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. ...more
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published May 12th 2009 by Forge Books
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Judith Starkston
Berlin, 1931, the year Germany was lost to the Nazis. Hannah Vogel, a crime reporter, wanders into the Hall of the Unnamed Dead to examine the police reports from which she gathers her stories each week. Instead she sees her brother’s photograph on the wall, his long hair and beautiful features wet from being dragged out of the Spree River, an anonymous floater. But Hannah’s identity papers, and with them her ability to talk to the police, are on their way to America in the hands of her Jewish f ...more
Jul 28, 2011 Sam rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
If you want to get a feel for pre World War II Germany, this is your book. A Trace of Smoke takes place in 1931 Berlin, the Nazi's are just starting to make their presence known and the people of Berlin are still recovering from the shortages and lose of the first war. Great writing and a wonderful mystery taking you from the burlesque houses of Berlin, to the lakes and posh clubs of the rich, from the anti-Semitism of Nazi rule to the compassion that still exited in those not afraid to stand up ...more
May 30, 2011 J.D. rated it really liked it
In 1931 Berlin, crime reporter Hannah Vogel discovers her brother's photograph in the police station's Hall of the Unnamed Dead. Her brother, a homosexual, cross-dressing lounge singer, had a number of shady connections and numerous liasons with powerful and dangerous men, and when Hannah sets off to find his killer, she runs afoul of one of the scariest real-life figures of the days before Hitler's rise to power.
This is a great historical mystery. I especially liked the contrasts between the s
Aug 20, 2013 Renee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-mystery
A good read and a gripping mystery/suspense tale, this is also a peek at life in Berlin as the Nazi's begin their rise. It made me wonder about the cult of personality and not just Hitler, but others in his circle o' thugs. At some point, Hannah, the main character and narrator, wonders what would happen without those who surround Hitler--Rohm, Goebbels, etc. Would he just be a short, shrieking man with a funny mustache?
Rob Kitchin
Aug 12, 2012 Rob Kitchin rated it liked it
Somewhat surprisingly I struggled through A Trace of Smoke. I’ve been thinking about why as it has many of the ingredients that I normally like - good historical context and sense of place, an interesting plot, and a good mix of distinctive characters. After a bit of reflection, I think there are four reasons. First, I found the writing a little flat and pedestrian. Second, the dialogue really didn’t work for me – it’s too formal and stilted. There are very little, if any, colloquialisms, slang, ...more
Rachel Brady
Mar 03, 2010 Rachel Brady rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely story about a woman's search for the truth in pre-Nazi Berlin, when everything is uncertain--from the political climate to when protagonist Hannah Vogel will eat her next meal. Cantrell has set a compelling mystery in the midst of a city and time most of us can't imagine, yet she's done so in a way that made me feel I was there. I enjoyed Hannah on many levels: her career as a newspaper reporter writing under a male pseudonym, her emotional recovery following a challenging child ...more
Deborah Ledford
Such an amazing read. Rebecca Cantrell takes us on a suspenseful ride of 1931 Berlin brimming with intrigue, suspicion and murder. This capable writer presents visuals and details so rich you can feel the atmosphere and varied cultures fraught with trepidation as to what Germany and its people will become.

Hannah Vogel, Anton, Boris and especially Ernst are captivating characters, memorable and lasting. I read every word of this debut novel as I didn't want to rush or miss a single detail.

Feb 08, 2010 Marlyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
Hannah Vogel is a single 32-year-old woman in a Germany where Nazi-ism is becoming rampant. A crime reporter for the Berliner Tageblatt, she considers herself fairly tough and unshakeable. But when, on a regular visit to the police station she sees a photo of her younger brother Ernst in the photos of the unnamed dead, the unidentified bodies discovered over the past week, she is (understandably) upset.

Hannah's friend Fritz Waldheim is the policeman on duty, though, so she tries not to show it.
Bob Mustin
Apr 06, 2011 Bob Mustin rated it really liked it
During the two years of my MLA studies, I grew into a fascination with the emergence of Germany’s Third Reich – how it happened and why. Since, I’ve looked, beyond historical texts, to fiction relating to the years between the World Wars in Germany, and to the more modern novels of post-WWII.

Cantrell’s book is a venture into a genre blending of mystery and historical fiction – a blend I find near irresistible. In a word, the author has taken up where CABARET left off. Historically, we see a Germ
Suzanne Adair
Jul 12, 2010 Suzanne Adair rated it really liked it
Few novels that I pick up hold my attention beyond the first several chapters. What a pleasure to read A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell. Ms. Cantrell sets her historical suspense/mystery in Berlin on the eve of Germany's descent into control by the Nazis. Journalist Hannah Vogel discovers that her brother, Ernst, has been murdered. Circumstances prevent her seeking the help of law enforcement officials. She becomes the sleuth to uncover the identity of her brother's killer, endangering her o ...more
Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
Set in Berlin in 1931 the book describes a period not seen in many novels, the era between the massive inflationary years and pre the Nazis coming to absolute power.

You also rarely find such a strong female character as Hannah Vogel. A 30 year old crime reporter who has to write under a male pseudonym for her work to be taken seriously.

The story opens with her weekly visit to Police Headquarters where the Hall of the Unnamed Dead carries on its walls photos of unidentified bodies. Much to her ho
Nov 07, 2011 Michelle rated it really liked it
This was a well-written historical novel that had me hooked from the first chapter. The novel boasts strong character development along with a fast paced and suspenseful storyline. It presents a look into the personal life of prominent Nazi soldiers and Nazi Germany that is not often depicted. Though this novel is fiction, it weaves enough nonfiction facts into the story, and it is very easy for the reader to forget it is fiction and take what is being read as fact. I highly recommend this to an ...more
Feb 15, 2011 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries, ebooks, fiction
A thoroughly enjoyable mystery set in 1931 Germany. As Hitler gains power, a Berlin crime reporter learns that her homosexual, cross-dressing younger brother has been murdered, and there are several legitimate suspects, including Hitler's right-hand man. It's filled with evocative narrative and an excellent sense of time and place. In less competent hands, some of the subject matter could go way too far down Sordid Lane, but Cantrell does a good job of exploring this particular underbelly withou ...more
Chris Wolak
I loved reading this novel and was sorry to see it come to an end. It had been on my radar for sometime and I moved it to the top of my reading list when I found out Rebecca Cantrell was coming to the area for a book signing. I'm now looking forward to reading the second Hannah Vogel novel, A Night of Long Knives, which was just released in June.

Set in 1931 Berlin A Trace of Smoke is a skillfully written mystery/thriller with a literary sensibility. I was hooked on the first page. This richly de
Dec 05, 2012 Dennis rated it really liked it
Shelves: berlin-noir
In the course of my 3-year-old fascination with the so-called "Nazi noir" genre of recent fiction, set in interwar Berlin, until now I had yet to come across a consistent protagonist who was either Jewish or female. (And I've read, I believe, 16 or so books that fit this description) Even Richard Zimler's outstanding "The Seventh Gate", set in the waning years of the Weimar Republic onward, is driven forward by Sophie, a lovely girl who in spite of her love for Judaism and a Jewish man, is still ...more
Jun 04, 2014 Buchdoktor rated it did not like it

Im Berlin der frühen 30er arbeitet Hannah Vogel als Gerichtszeichnerin für eine Zeitung und veröffentlicht unter einem männlichen Pseudonym Gerichtsreportagen. Ein Tatortfoto aus einer Galerie unbekannter Toter konfrontiert sie mit dem Tod ihres Bruders Ernst, der in der Berliner Transvestiten-Szene verkehrte. Homosexualität war in jener Zeit strafbar. Hannah gefährdet durch ihre privaten Ermittlungen sich und ihre Stelle bei der Zeitung. Sie begibt sich u. a. deshalb in höchste Gefahr, weil sie
Jun 15, 2009 Nikki rated it it was amazing
I must admit that I was predisposed to like this book. I lived in Berlin for a little over a year in the early 70s, so I'm always interested in books set there. And of the many historical periods there are to choose from, my favorite has always been the forty years or so before I was born -- from just before World War I to just after World War II. So a book set in 1931 Berlin would get two stars before I even opened it. The other three were earned by Rebecca Cantrell's plotting, her recreation o ...more
Apr 13, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: crimepieces
Historical crime fiction can be a problematic area for me as the quality varies widely. It’s a genre that has expanded considerably over the last decade or so but I like to pick and choose my writers based on recommendations and favourable reviews. One writer I particularly enjoy is Philip Kerr, whose books featuring the inimitable Bernie Gunther evoke the tensions and mutual suspicions endemic in Nazi Germany.

In A Trace of Smoke, Rebecca Cantrell uses a slightly earlier period of 1931 Berlin as
Nov 23, 2009 Laura rated it liked it
I had to add a new shelf just for this book: "noir". And when I think about it, there doesn't seem to be a setting as perfect for a noir mystery than Berlin in the 1930's. It doesn't even need any embellishment by the author to create the atmosphere of unreality, violence and decay. Or as the dictionary says: "a genre of crime literature featuring tough, cynical characters and bleak settings". Well, I don't know that they come much bleaker than Berlin during the rise of the Nazi party. Even read ...more
Aug 26, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it
Normally I don’t care for books that are part of series, partly because it’s a rare series that hooks me enough to encourage further reading (I can only think of two: Hunger Games and Gallagher Girls) and I don’t enjoy books that can’t stand on their own. Trace of Smoke is a rare exception. I’m not sure if it was originally envisioned as a series or merely panned out that way. Although the end lends to follow-on potential it is a complete book in its own right and though I’d be interested to rea ...more
Feb 25, 2010 Spuddie rated it it was amazing
#1 Hannah Vogel mystery set in 1931 Germany. Hannah, a thirty-something independent woman who has resigned herself to life alone after her fiance died in the Great War, is now working as a newspaper reporter (but writing under a man's name.) She is at the police station to get some information for a story from her friend Fritz, but is instead horrified to see a photograph of her younger brother Ernst on the "Hall of the Unnamed Dead," a series of images put up on the wall so that citizens can he ...more
Mar 06, 2010 Zoe rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
This book kept me good company during a sick day spent entirely in bed and on various couches.

It's a well-researched, fast moving tale set against the backdrop of pre-WWII Germany. Cantrell does a great job of detailing daily life during the Nazi's rise to power, the fear and hardship that was felt by all but the most wealthy of German citizens. She also deals with the difficult subject of homosexuality and the hypocrisy surrounding it under Hitler's regime with great tact and subtlety. The plo
Jun 18, 2010 Charlie rated it it was amazing
This story manages to fit neatly into four genre categories and does it amazingly well! While reading, my imagination portrayed the story in black and white form with dashes of color, mostly red, which is significant to the gay character. This is not due to a lack of development, but rather should be taken as a compliment to the author’s talent to imprint emotions into the scene without directly stating or over dramatizing. I felt a connection to each character and grew to care about them all, e ...more
Jul 13, 2011 LuAnn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
As if Hannah doesn’t have enough trouble trying to survive on a paycheck that barely covers her own expenses, suddenly a 5-year-old boy appears on her doorstep with a birth certificate claiming she is his mother and her dead brother is the father. She knows, of course, that the papers are counterfeit, but now she must figure out how to care for Anton, who has managed to find a way into her heart, and who killed her brother. Her quest leads her down a path of danger and risk for both her and Anto ...more
Mar 30, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing
Outstanding! Skillfully written. The story progressed at a steady pace and held my interest completely. Set in Berlin in 1931, the year the Nazi party succeeded it's takeover of Germany. Hannah lives and works in Berlin as a crime reporter for a local newspaper under the name Peter Weill. Information for her articles come from police blotter type reports her friend Fritz allows her to peruse. It is there that she discovers her brothers picture among the Hall of the Unnamed Dead, which is a posti ...more
Mar 04, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it
Crime reporter of the Berliner Tageblatt, Hannah Vogel, masquerades under the name Peter Weill to disguise the fact that the tough-writing hardened journalist is really only a woman, while her brother Anton disguises his manhood in the guise of a flamboyant cross-dressing lounge singer performing in the fashionable gay clubs of Berlin in the early 1930s.
When Hannah recognizes her brother’s photograph on display in the Hall of The Unnamed Dead in the basement of the Berlin police station, she is
Oct 06, 2011 Patricia rated it really liked it
The first book, A Trace of Smoke, in Cantrell's series starring Hannah Vogel, a crime reporter, is set in post-WWI Germany during the rise of the Nazi Party. While at the police department to view crime reports, Hannah sees a picture of her younger brother Ernst, dead in a river, on the wall in the Hall of the Unnamed Dead. Ernst, a gay cross-dresser who was a well-known (and loved) singer in a Berlin nightclub and had lovers among the Nazi elite, including the head of the storm troopers, had be ...more
Aug 03, 2009 TBML rated it it was ok
An evocative and dark novel about the end of Weimar Berlin. Rebecca Cantrell's A Trace of Smoke follows Hannah Vogel, a crime reporter as she tries to unravel the mystery of her brother's death. Cantrell gives us a tour of the more flamboyant and seedy alleys of 1931 Berlin which includes cabarets, cocaine, prostitutes and homosexuals. Aside from the mystery of her cross-dressing brother's death, the story is haunted by a mounting social and political fear as the Nazis continue their ascent to p ...more
Reed Raab
Apr 18, 2012 Reed Raab rated it really liked it
Recommended to Reed by: Goodreads Giveaways
The first chapter itself grabs hold of you and makes you want to follow Hannah Vogel through the Hall of the Unnamed Dead and out into the world in order to find out what exactly happened to one of the nameless dead. That particular unclaimed corpse happens to be her younger, eccentric brother, Ernst, and Hannah stops at nothing in order to find out what became of her favorite sibling. Hannah is a strong willed woman in 1931 Germany that writes for a paper under a male alias and does not agree w ...more
Jul 14, 2009 Cecilia rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
A wonderful new thriller by a debut author who has a background in both literature and Germany history. Well-written and filled with real characters of the time, Cantrell’s book is set in 1930s Berlin at the beginning of the rise of Hitler’s power. Her main character, Hannah Vogel, is a reporter who writes for a Berlin newspaper under a male alias. At the beginning of the story, Hannah finds out her brother has been murdered, but no one else seems to know this…everyone else (expect for the murde ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: "A Trace of Smoke" by Rebecca Cantrell 1 3 Feb 20, 2012 04:28PM  
  • Rosa (Berlin Trilogy, #1)
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  • Critique of Criminal Reason (Hanno Stiffeniis, #1)
  • Season of Darkness (Detective Inspector Tom Tyler, #1)
  • Flight From Berlin
  • Flesh Wounds (Inspector Troy, #5)
  • The Ninth Daughter (Abigail Adams #1)
  • The Pale House (Gregor Reinhardt, #2)
A few years ago Rebecca Cantrell quit her job, sold her house, and moved to Hawaii to write a novel because, at seven, she decided that she would be a writer. Now she writes the award-winning Hannah Vogel mystery series set in Berlin in the 1930s. “A Trace of Smoke,” "A Night of Long Knives," "A Game of Lies," and "A City of Broken Glass." She also co-writes the Order of Sanguines series with Jame ...more
More about Rebecca Cantrell...

Other Books in the Series

Hannah Vogel (4 books)
  • A Night of Long Knives (Hannah Vogel, #2)
  • A Game of Lies (Hannah Vogel, #3)
  • A City of Broken Glass (Hannah Vogel, #4)

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