Hannah gets up early, even though she would rather sleep in. She’s a crime reporter in Berlin in 1931, and she has a lot to do before she has to show up at the courthouse.
She has a quick breakfast—a roll and some tea, with butter and sugar respectively if she’s feeling flush—dons her cloche hat, and takes the subway to the police station at Alexanderplatz. It’s an imposing building that covers a square block, but she’s used to dodging automobiles, cars, and the occasional earnest police officer.
Folding several newspapers under her arm, she has to keep up, she goes into the massive hall and heads down the gloomy corridor called the Hall of the Unnamed Dead. Police hang death photos of unidentified bodies there. It’s a gruesome sight—a hundred corpses who have been shot, drowned, overdosed, or frozen to death stare down at her as she walks. She’s used to it, but after she saw her brother’s picture there, she averts her eyes.
At the end of her walk is an office that contains her childhood friend, Fritz Waldheim. He lets her look through the most recent crime reports. Sometimes she finds her next story there, and sometimes it makes her sad. Often, both.
After she takes her notes, she tries to get out before she’s spotted by Kommissar Lang. He’s a devout National Socialist and he’s paying too much attention to her. In her experience, it’s never a good thing when a cop or a Nazi gets too interested.
Then she’s off to the giant courthouse at Moabit. She’s covering a trial for the paper and she needs to get a good seat because she’ll be doing courtroom sketches. They often end up in the Berliner Zeitung, and they pay extra.
After the trial she’ll head back to the bullpen to type up her story, see if she can convince them to buy a sketch, and then it’s home to bed.
When her brother was alive she’d sometimes go to cabarets to watch him sing and enjoy a free drink. He usually sang at gay clubs, which meant no one bothered her. She liked the anonymity.
That’s an ordinary day. But Hannah almost never has one of those. She’s either investigating a murder or spying for the British or trying to control a drunken source or getting into prison to investigate or talking to a madam. It’s what she loves best—danger, excitement, and no day like the last.
You can read more about Hannah in A Trace of Smoke, the first book in the “Hannah Vogel” historical mystery series.
It’s 1931 in Berlin, and the world is on the precipice of change—the affluent still dance in their gilded cages but more and more people are living under threat and poverty. Hannah Vogel is a crime reporter forced to write under the male pseudonym Peter Weill. As a widow of the Great War, she’s used to doing what she must to survive. Her careful facade is threatened when she stumbles across a photograph of her brother in the Hall of the Unnamed Dead. Reluctant to make a formal identification until she has all the details, Hannah decides to investigate, herself. She must be cautious as Ernst’s life as a cross-dressing cabaret star was ringed in scandal, and his list of lovers included at least one powerful leader in the Nazi party.
She’s barely had a chance to begin before an endearing five-year-old orphan shows up on her doorstep holding a birth certificate listing her dead brother Ernst as his father, and calling Hannah ‘Mother.’ Further complicating matters are her evolving feelings for Boris Krause, a powerful banker whose world is the antithesis of Hannah’s. Boris has built a solid wall preventing anyone from disturbing his, or his daughter Trudi’s, perfectly managed lives—a wall Hannah and Anton are slowly breaking down.
As Hannah digs, she discovers political intrigues and scandals touching the top ranks of the rising Nazi party. Fired from her job and on the run from Hitler’s troops, she must protect herself and the little boy who has come to love her, but can she afford to find love for herself?
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Meet the author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Cantrell has published twelve novels in over ten different languages. Her novels have won the ITW Thriller, the Macavity, and the Bruce Alexander awards. In addition, they have been nominated for the GoodReads Choice award, the Barry, the RT Reviewers Choice, and the APPY award. She and her husband and son just left Berlin for Hawaii’s sunny shores. Connect with Rebecca at rebeccacantrell.com.
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A Trace of Smoke is available at online booksellers.