In Cantrell’s soon to be published mystery, A City of Broken Glass, Hannah Vogel has gone to Poland in 1938 with her adopted son Anton to write a fluff article on festival pastries for a Swiss newspaper. That should send shivers into anyone familiar with Cantrell’s Hannah. She doesn’t write fluff and in 1938 even Poland isn’t as safe as Hannah has assumed. Almost immediately she goes in pursuit of a different story and discovers Jewish refugees rounded up by the Germans and dumped into Poland in cold barns with no food or medical care. Among the starving women lies Miriam, the pregnant wife of Hannah’s old lover Paul, and she’s in labor. When Hannah returns with a doctor, Miriam is suspiciously dead and the woman who was with her has disappeared. Unfortunately for Hannah, this tragedy is only a hint of the real danger lurking nearby. Soon she’s trapped in Berlin against her will with a surprising old ally and to her especial horror, her son Anton. How to get her son and herself safely out of Berlin? In addition, because she’s Hannah, how to help the various people whose needs cry out to her even while she herself is in dire peril?
Cantrell always succeeds in creating nail-biting suspense while building a thematically rich story. Hannah criticizes herself for not having done more to stop the Nazis in the past when she feels she could have. Her self-recriminations are unfair as the reader knows, but her thoughts underscore a central idea of this book—each person faced with great evil has a choice either to protect the vulnerable at the cost of his or her own safety or to turn away. One of the subtle measures of this theme in A City of Broken Glass is the response of those who love Hannah when she chooses to fight for the innocent. If a character would prefer for Hannah to stay safe but nonetheless lets her go forward and assists her, in each case that character is the one to trust and value. Love, in Cantrell’s book, is measured in the harsh crucible of standing up to the Nazis. If the person you love refuses to let you endanger your life and instead wishes you to take the cowardly way, perhaps they do not love you enough. That’s a tough theme in a tough period of history. Cantrell’s heroes have to love even into the maw of death. Combined with Cantrells’ vivid portrayal of place and time, such soul-searing action and character development makes for an amazing read, which will feed your heart and soul as well as entertain you.