The Cigarette Boy – Rebecca Cantrell
Sexy cabaret star Ernst Vogel navigates the increasingly fraught world of Berlin in the last years of the Weimar Republic. Nazi Storm Troopers and Communists fight in the streets and in his club. Wealthy Jews and intellectuals think of fleeing. Desperate sexual and social outcasts cram the famous nightclubs to wring out one last dance.
Ernst makes a promise to help the new young cigarette boy, but the boy disappears while Ernst is on stage. On the way home, Ernst finds his bloody body in an alley. After realizing the police don’t care about the death of one young hustler, Ernst determines to find justice on his own.
His search leads him into the dark heart of Berlin, where he encounters the truth about the boy’s death, and fights to save his own life.
My thanks to Chantelle at 22 Literary for a review copy and the chance to host a tour leg.
Longer ago than I care to remember a 17 year old me sat in a classroom in the Highlands of Scotland reading about Germany in the 20th Century. Not the Great War, that had been covered in depth since I was 14. Nor was I reading about the Second World War – I declined the chance to study those years. Instead I concentrated on the years between those two great conflicts and life in Germany during the time of the Weimar Republic. I was such a cool 17 year old!
But that period of German history is fascinating – not least due the rise of one particular political party which would become a symbol of fear and hatred around the world. The problem with school textbooks and other source material is that it can make for terribly dry reading. What I would have given at the time to have had the chance to read Rebecca Cantrell’s fantastic Hannah Vogel series instead.
Spin forward to 2017 and everyone has the chance to spend some time in 1930’s Germany. The first three in the Hannah Vogel series have been collected into a single volume and are joined by a short story (The Cigarette Boy) of which more shortly. Books One to Three are A Trace of Smoke, A Night of Long Knives and A Game of Lies. We will be introduced to Vogel and learn how she manages as a widow of the Great War, working as a crime reporter and frequently coming into opposition against the National Socialists as they grow in power and influence.
The treat for readers who pick up this collected volume of is that Rebecca Cantrell has included a new short story – The Cigarette Boy – which features Hannah’s brother (Ernst).
Ernst is a cabaret singer – the star of the show – and The Cigarette Boy is mainly set within the club. We see the club manager, the pianist, the guests and of course The Cigarette Boy (he has his own aspirations of success). There is a powerful pull of the theatre and important people want to be seen – knowing what we do of the Nazis it was something of a surprise to me that some of the top generals and ministers are frequenting the cabaret and seeking the attentions of the young starlets.
At the end of one evening Ernst learns that the Cigarette Boy has left the club and taken his tray of wares with him. Certain expulsion from the club beckons after-all there are a string of young hopefuls waiting to fill his shoes and try to gain success on the stage. But as Ernst heads home he stumbles across the body of the Cigarette Boy – brutally murdered and left abandoned. Ernst believes he can work out the killer’s identity but it means laying a trap and further lives could be in danger possibly his own.
Having read The Cigarette Boy I am now determined to read more of the Hannah Vogel series. I loved Rebecca Cantrell’s writing, the detail in the setting brings the story a vibrancy and the story captures a feel of the time.
If you are already a fan of this series then the opportunity to read The Cigarette Boy is a cracking reason to pick up the collection. If you are new to the works of Ms Cantrell I always advocate reading a series in order – here are the first three books to consider.
Rebecca has put an extract from The Cigarette Boy on her website – you can read that (and browse her other novels) here.
The Hannah Vogel collection is available now and can be ordered on the links below: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hannah-Vogel-Box-Set-Collectors-ebook/dp/B01ADW23MC/ref=la_B001MOS172_1_20?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497647357&sr=1-20