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A City of Broken Glass – Rebecca Cantrell

Cover shows a woman and fiery fire in the background

A City of Broken Glass by Rebecca Cantrell (Hannah Vogel #4)

A City of Broken Glass
Pages: 336
Setting: 1930′s Berlin
Series: Hannah Vogel, 4

I’ve always been a reader who likes to skip ahead. Probably shouldn’t have done it with this series. The first book is A Trace of Smoke. Her first book earned favorable reviews for a debut when it was released in 2009.

I requested an e-galley of CITY OF BROKEN GLASS. It’s the fourth in the series set against the backdrop of 1930′s Berlin. The story begins with journalist Hannah Vogel being recently banished from Switzerland to Poland to cover the Saint Martin’s day festival.

Hannah’s anti-Nazi articles generated threats that caused her editor some concern for her safety; so he assigns her to Poland, to do a light feature piece on a parade for a saint known for his kindness to the poor.

Under an alias, Hannah Vogel visits a farming village where thousands of Polish Jews are being housed in a stable and a flour mill. Wanted by the Gestapo, Hannah tries to keep a low profile but that doesn’t last long.  She ends up in the last place she ever wants to be: in Berlin. Accompanied by her son, Anton and a man from her past, Hannah finds herself trapped there. She spends some of her time trying to secure papers to get out of Germany and the other half of her time is spent helping a friend find his little girl who was left in a cupboard during the arrests and mass deportations of Jews. That’s the basic premise.

Assessment: I will mimic others in saying that this book (and I presumed the earlier ones as well) is a good blend of historical fiction and mystery with some romantic elements. I was hooked from the first page. The atmosphere of this time period is suspenseful. There’s an air of obvious danger and fear of being stuck in Nazi Germany during this rapidly changing political and hostile environment.

The author obviously did some research. She provides a glossary at the end of the book. While I didn’t read the three earlier books in the series, I managed. However, there is some history between some of the characters.  Due to my lack of familiarity and intimacy with them, I wasn’t able to enjoy the story to the fullest degree. Another reviewer (Jayne) stated that this series will cause havoc with romance readers (the many suitors!) but as a mystery novel, it’s par for the course. I’m sure the fans of this series will enjoy the emotional angst.

The title of the novel is a play on words that correlates to “Kristallnacht” or “Night of Crystal” or “Night of Broken Glass” that describe the state sanctioned attack on Jews. These events are what led up to what many believe( according to the author), the beginning of the Holocaust in 1938.  These attacks led to an increase number of  orphaned children as well.

Conclusion: Will I go back and read the first book in the series? Probably not.  However, I’ve enjoyed similar books like Ariana Franklin’s City of Shadows which is another novel set against the backdrop of the Nazi’s rise to power (very good book!). There are four books in the Hannah Vogel series and yes, I must agree that it is better to read them in order. I refuse to grade this book since I am delinquent in reading the entire series to make a more informed opinion. I will say this much: I read  and enjoyed A City of Broken Glass for the most part. The author’s voice is very engaging. New fans will have to start at the beginning as this is not the best place to begin the series.

Source: e-Galley from publisher

Author Rebecca Cantrell’s website for those who have an interest.

6 Comments »

  1. Interesting review Keishon. I like to start a series wherever I please and I find the strength of an author depends on whether you are able to do this. I am dying to start Camilleri and I just can;t work out whether to start at the beginning or with his award winning latest.
    In relation to Rbecca Cantrell, I read ‘A Trace of Smoke’ and enjoyed it v much. I would like to read more in the series when I get a chance.

    • I prefer writers to write their books as standalone no matter how many are in the series. It would work to their advantage to do so if they plan to win over new readers.

  2. I would bet if you tried the first book, you’d like it. Since romance is way down on the totem pole of what happens, most of the story centers on the mystery and crime solving. Plus there are tons of interesting characters who – for one reason or nother – have now been whittled out of the series.

  3. Keishon – Thanks for your thoughtful review. I think one of the things I like best about this series is the way Cantrell evokes the time period and the setting. She really does do her research and it shows even in subtle details. I honestly do suggest you take the time to start at the beginning of the series. It really helps in understanding Hannah Vogel’s character.

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