Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Trace of Smoke-Rebecca Cantrell

A Trace of Smoke
Rebecca Cantrell
Forge, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN 9780765320445

In 1931 thirty two years old crime reporter for the Berliner Tageblatt Hannah Vogel visits Berlin’s Hall of the Unnamed Dead. There on the wall is the picture of an unknown naked corpse whom she recognizes. The victim is her beloved gay brother Ernst, who could not harm a fly; he had no papers because he gave them to their Jewish friends to escape dangerous Germany for New York.

Outraged that someone would torture and kill her effeminate kind sibling, she knows she must remain silent re his identity or her “lost papers until their friends reach America. Still Hannah investigates using Ernst’s sexual proclivity and his performing at the underground El Dorado cabaret as the starting points With the help of her dedicated lover and a young urchin claiming to be her nephew, Hannah makes her inquiries including the claim of the street kid that her obviously gay brother sired a child.

This is a powerful historical tale that looks deep inside the souls of the groups that make up the Weimer Republic at a time when Hitler is just starting to rise in power. The story line contrasts caring people from various religions vs. the brutal angry assaults of the Nazis. Not an easy read with no sugar coating, A TRACE OF SMOKE will have readers pondering whether this could happen in modern day America.

Harriet Klausner