The fourth book in a series of historical thrillers, A City of Broken Glass by Rebecca Cantrell is a blend of the mystery/intrigue and noir genres. It is a well written story that takes place in what many (myself included) consider the darkest period in the modern western world.
Set in Nazi Germany in 1938, the story follows Hannah Vogel, a journalist sent by the Swiss newspaper she works for to cover a fluff piece about pastries during a festival in Poland. But soon after she and her son Anton arrive in Poland, Hannah discovers a real story to cover: the deportation of Jews from Germany. The Jewish refugees Hannah finds are housed in a stable under deplorable conditions and guarded by Polish soldiers as if they are prisoners. When Hannah recognizes one of the refugees as the wife of a former lover, Hannah goes to her and sees that the woman is about to give birth. The woman begs Hannah to ensure the safety of her two year old daughter who has been hidden in a cupboard in the woman's home in Berlin. As Hannah agrees to help, she faces not just the mystery of why the toddler was left alone or where she is but also Hannah's very own mystery - how she herself becomes trapped in Berlin with her son and how it all ties together with her past. The suspense is built carefully through both the fictional events created and the actual historical events leading to the Holocaust and World War II.
The story is told in first person from Hannah's point of view and in that respect it's very well done. The writing is a little on the colder side but almost exactly what the reader would imagine to be written by a journalist. It also fits well with the bleakness of the time period. Although there is a lot of internal dialogue and self criticism (for not doing enough to fight the Nazis) within Hannah and surrounding the other characters, the characters themselves still struck me as a little cold. Most of the emotion I felt arose from the events rather than the characters - even though the author does a good job of making the main characters a little more likeable towards the end (and they are probably realistic for the time).
As I mentioned earlier, this is the fourth book in the Hannah Vogel mystery series but it can easily be read as a stand alone thriller. There is a lot of historical information behind it and the author even provides additional information from her research at the end.
For a suspense thriller, it's a very good story. It also has an interesting but very disturbing setting. So it's probably just me, but I did feel a little discomfort when I read the novel. Yes, I know there were German citizens who did stand up against the Nazi Regime and their inhuman laws. The author even points this out at the end with real examples. However, as history tells us there were so many who didn't. It gives the reader a lot to think about. I think if the storyline was in a different setting and the characters just a little different, it would have been an easier novel to like.
More about the author:
City of Broken Glass