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Friday, April 5, 2013

A Trace of Smoke, by Rebecca Cantrell - a review

Crime reporter with 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 thrown in a mystery. It will take every ounce of the investigative reporter she really wants to be in order to discover how her younger brother’s body ended up in the river and placed alongside all the other unidentified bodies found by the police.

Fired from her job and on the run from Hitler’s storm troopers, her investigation leads her to top ranking gay Nazi party leaders such as Ernst Rohm. She attempts to blackmail Rohm over sexually graphic letters she discovered in her brother’s possession in order to coerce the truth while kidnapping a young boy that Rohm is using in order to present his more austere front. Historically correct in the treatment of its setting from places to dates and politics to dramatics, “A Trace of Smoke” sucks you in like an unfiltered cigarette, burns as you breathe it out, but ultimately satisfies like only a true mystery can.

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