Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES - Rebecca Cantrell

FIRST LINE: "Wind rustled in grass browned by the drought plaguing Europe."

Hannah Vogel is traveling to Switzerland from South America on a writing assignment when the zeppelin her and her young son Anton are traveling in is stopped in Germany. Hannah knows right away that the authorities have stopped the zeppelin to take she and Anton into custody. Three years prior they escaped Germany and the clutches of a head Nazi SA officer, Ernst Rohm. Rohm will stop at nothing to regain custody of Anton, who he claims is his son.

Rohm's men kidnap Hannah and Anton once the zeppelin has landed. They are separated and Hannah is taken to Rohm who insists she must marry him if she hopes to ever see Anton again. Hitler steps in to prevent Hannah from marrying Rohm; he has Rohm and his SA troops executed. But Hannah still does not have Anton. She's desperate to find him and once again escape Germany.

A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES is Rebecca Cantrell's follow-up to her award-winning historical mystery A TRACE OF SMOKE. Returning to World War II and Nazi Germany, Cantrell develops a very dark and depressing setting. Where readers may be accustomed to the common view point of the Jewish character in such plots, Cantrell examines how Hitler affected those connected to the SA troops. The title of Cantrell's book comes from the actual event in history where masses of men were silently executed and their families were left with no answers, no remains to bury, nothing. This is a group where empathy is not as easily created, given they were initially part of Hitler's forces. But by running Hannah Vogel's desperate search for her own "son" parallel to the stories of the families affected by this slaughter, Cantrell allows the reader to connect and empathize. Family is the epicenter around which the major themes of this novel work, and readers can connect and identify with family.

What struck me the most in this novel was the way Cantrell so articulately depicted the inability to trust. No one knew who they could trust and who they couldn't trust. Families separated as allegiances are divided. Trust is such a vital, yet fragile commodity. And this utter lack of trust is a major element in developing the darkness shrouding the people of Nazi Germany. The loneliness emanates from the pages as the characters flounder in a sea of emotional isolation. It's also an important element in developing her characters and the relationships between them. Trust, when present, is the glimmer of light and hope, but it is not easy to come by.

Cantrell also examines the persecution of the journalists; a strong reminder of the importance of the freedom of speech and value of knowledge.

In the midst of an action-filled plot, A KNIGHT OF LONG KNIVES will make you think. It should remind you of all that we take take for granted on a daily basis. The blending of historical facts and the passionately imagined lives of these characters makes for a thought-provoking, riveting read.

A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES is available today in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-7653-2045-2) from Forge Books.

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6 comments:

Poncho June 22, 2010 at 3:45 AM  

This sounds like an amazing read. I heard so many good things about "A Trace of Smoke" I can only expect that much from this one.

Thank you so much for this suggestion, Jen!

kathy d. June 22, 2010 at 6:15 AM  

You all are brave readers. Although Cantrell's books sound really good, I avoid reading fiction about WW II, too great a horror to further contemplate.

Having friends whose parents fled Nazi Germany and who were so affected by the Holocaust, I couldn't enjoy this background.

My hats off to all readers of books of this horrendous period in history and to the writers who write about it and try to explain it, as inexplicable as it all was.

And thank you for writing another very good review.

Kay June 22, 2010 at 8:37 AM  

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this new book by Rebecca Cantrell. My mystery book group is reading A TRACE OF SMOKE for September and it's always nice when the next book is already available for those who love the first. I'm looking forward to reading both of these books.

Susan C Shea June 22, 2010 at 2:24 PM  

One of the reasons I admire author Rebecca Cantrell is that she takes on complex moral issues in the context of a part of history we all think we know and already can judge. She brings a fresh eye to a field so well populated with fiction and non-fiction.

Susan C Shea June 22, 2010 at 2:24 PM  

One of the reasons I admire author Rebecca Cantrell is that she takes on complex moral issues in the context of a part of history we all think we know and already can judge. She brings a fresh eye to a field so well populated with fiction and non-fiction.

Susan C Shea June 22, 2010 at 2:25 PM  

One of the reasons I admire author Rebecca Cantrell is that she takes on complex moral issues in the context of a part of history we all think we know and already can judge. She brings a fresh eye to a field so well populated with fiction and non-fiction.

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