A Game of Lies, the third volume in Rebecca Cantrell’s Hannah Vogel series, is enticing. Even anyone who has not previously read A Trace of Smoke (volume #1) or A Night of Long Knives (volume #2) will enjoy it as a stand-alone book. The setting is 1936 Germany, where the Nazis have taken full control of the government and the German nation. Headstrong, intelligent, and startlingly deductive, Hannah Vogel is back in Germany. Even the 1936 Summer Olympics will not stop Hannah and her partner in espionage, Lars Lang, from resuming their anti-Nazi work. However, it seems that there is more at stake than just their lives.
First, Hannah’s beloved mentor suddenly dies, leaving a mysterious secret unrevealed. Then Hannah begins to hear troubling hints about Lars’ new position in Gestapo headquarters and his chilling SS connections. Every step Hannah takes in the new regime puts her further in danger, where she is forced to choose whom to trust when all could be enemies. More importantly, she must decide whether the man she has entrusted her mission and her fate to is truly on her side or is a double agent intent on destroying her. The game of lies both characters play with the Nazis quickly escalates into a matter of inevitable “checkmate” in a world turned upside down. Hannah must fight back with the only weapons she has—her wits, her common sense, and her instincts.
In A Game of Lies, Cantrell once again involves Hannah in an intricate, historically relevant situation that is divided between a personal and political conflict. Naturally, Hannah’s intriguing temperament brings along the distracting possibility of new love as well. The year of 1936 finds the Nazis already secretly preparing for World War II by manufacturing weapons and re-training an army. As always, Hannah is right “in the center of the storm,” playing her part in exposing how far along Hitler and his slaves are in the process of wreaking universal havoc. Without Anton or Boris actively participating in the storyline of A Game of Lies, the author uses this opportunity to focus closely on the relationship between Lars and Hannah.
Lars now is Hannah’s sole ally, or so she hopes. He is enigmatic, coolly perceptive, calculating, and even passionate. But under the tension and arguments, Lars and Hannah have a strong bond. Even when his true allegiance comes into question, Lars proves himself to be unconditionally loyal to Hannah and determined to keep her safe despite personal risks. He truly cares for her welfare; he admires her stubborn, independent nature and never tries to change her. Hannah unwillingly draws closer to Lars, in spite of her feelings and her doubts. They endure the worst together, from an automobile accident and a poisoning to a Gestapo interrogation. The reader will be secretly delighted to watch the characters’ volcano of emotions explode at the right and wrong moments.
Hannah and Lars are good actors, but their mutual sense of honor and honesty will only help their mutual attraction to each other strengthen and mature. A Game of Lies does show the final steps in Germany for total Nazi domination and the tyranny that has silenced all public protests under a screen of pacifism. However, in spite of the irony visible in the aftermath of World War II and its consequences, Cantrell builds her story against that likely outcome, never letting the climaxes of the story run ahead of important details and necessary descriptions of the unsettling environment developing in Berlin, a central example.
Incredibly, in the midst of violence and threats, A Game of Lies has a sense of humor that heightens all the drama and confessions of love. The horrors and pressures of espionage are portrayed fully, as Hannah and Lars interact daily with enemies who are directly responsible for murder and torture. Still, the author contrasts the protagonists against their adversaries in terms of guilt and moral consciences. Lars’ defense of Hannah and his genuine concern for her are very touching, especially in the middle of a tantalizing crime mystery.
With A Game of Lies, Cantrell once again proves that her intense, appealing characters and her journalistic take on a devastating turn in history create a fascinating thriller, setting the scene for A City of Broken Glass, the upcoming fourth volume in the Hannah Vogel series.