Most people of this century are more familiar with the horrors surrounding World War II, not World War I. No matter how exactly this oversight on the part of both wars’ progeny occurred, Rebecca Cantrell points out the fact of it clearly in A Trace of Smoke by noticing that there are no coincidences in life, only people who cannot see the whole picture. Instead of creating a mystery novel set near the onset of World War II, the author takes the reader back in time by building her story’s environment very carefully. Hannah Vogel, the female protagonist who has beauty and the brains of a master detective, leads the way into a world devastated by the events of World War I and a nation desperate for change: pre-Nazi Germany.
Hannah’s dedication to her job as a crime reporter results in the discovery of her gay brother’s death, and with this realization comes a dangerous portal into the rising power and importance of the Nazis. Pre-existent circumstances forbid Hannah to turn over the case of her brother’s murder to the police, but the more she uncovers about her brother’s affairs, the more she is plunged into the mayhem of what Germany is slowly becoming—a throne for Adolf Hitler and his close companions. The infamous Ernst Röhm also has a significant part to play as Hannah is faced with the inner reflection of Germany’s deceptive appearance, a dark underworld brimming with crimes and a lack of respect for individual lives. In its graphic descriptions of how homosexuality and the Nazi party went hand in hand despite official decrees, A Trace of Smoke is truly staggering and unprecedented in its clarity.
To be continued…
A Trace of Smoke is available in local libraries and bookstores in Fresno, and online.