New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Cantrell's works have won the ITW Thriller, Bruce Alexander and Macavity awards and been nominated for the Barry, Mary Higgins Clark, GoodReads Choice, APPY, RT Reviewers Choice, and Shriekfest Film Festival awards. She and her husband live in Hawaii.

A Night of Long Knives by Rebecca Cantrell

Following the events of A TRACE OF SMOKE, journalist Hannah Vogel has been in hiding in Bolivia with her young ward, Anton, for the past three years. She believes she has outwitted Ernst Röhm, the head of the Nazi Party's Storm Troopers who believes himself to be the boy's father, so she seizes the offer from a newspaper to cover the journey of a zeppelin from South America to Switzerland, particularly as it will allow her a rare opportunity to meet with her lover, Boris Krause.

When the zeppelin is diverted to Germany, she knows she's walked straight into a trap. Röhm, facing expulsion from the party as a result of rumors of his homosexuality, has decided to claim his alleged son, and marry Hannah as a beard. Unfortunately for him, his solution has come too late. Hitler has supplanted the Storm Troopers with the SS, headed by Himmler, and the resulting purge, forever known as The Night of the Long Knives, has begun.

Hannah manages to escape in the melee, while Röhm faces a firing squad. She and Anton were separated, and Hannah must enlist all her allies—and a few of her enemies—to track him down before the Gestapo can. With nowhere else to turn, Hannah finds herself at Boris' door in a wedding dress. She expects a safe haven, but she learns that her presence and search for Anton are putting Boris at risk. During her absence he has been helping Jews escape and he is already under suspicion. Finally she traces Anton to the home of Röhm's mother, who offers a deal—her son's body in exchange for Anton. Traveling to Berlin, Hannah is caught up in the Nazi's continuing purge and must learn to trust—and protect—those she has loved, and hated, in order to survive.



  • "Cantrell whisks the reader along through her marvelous confection of danger and excitement, and you'll avidly devour the whole of A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES."

    – Mark Rose at bookgasm
  • "Cantrell knows suspense, and in Hannah Vogel she has created a compelling character. The first person narration draws you right into the action, and pairing that with graphic, visceral descriptions makes this book a hard one to put down…emphasizes the chilling dehumanization of the Third Reich."

    – Susan Engberg at Bust
  • "A Night of Long Knives, Rebecca Cantrell's second novel featuring journalist Hannah Vogel, again flawlessly captures Germany's descent into darkness under growing Nazi power."

  • "In the midst of an action-filled plot, A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES will make you think. It should remind you of all that we 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."

    – Jen Forbus at jensbookthoughts
  • "A Night of Long Knives" does what I love historical fiction to accomplish. It makes me interested in learning more about the times presented and as a sequel it shows characters from previous books moving forward as individuals and evolving in their relationships with each other…Brava on a job well."

    – Jayne at



Wind rustled in grass browned by the drought consuming Europe. Unseasonable heat and a parched smell invaded the gondola. The Graf Zeppelin's massive shadow stole over tidy Swiss houses, streets, and fields. I wiped my palms on my thin cotton dress, sweating as much from fear as heat. I had not been so near Germany since I fled three years before, after kidnapping the purported only son of Ernst Röhm.

Röhm was Chief of Staff of the storm troopers and commanded thirty times more men than Hindenburg, the president of Germany. Yet reports of homosexuality dogged him. Doubts the small boy squirming in front of me could quash. Anton provided final proof of Röhm's virility.

"Good day, Frau Zinsli," said Señor Santana. Like everyone else in the past three years, he used the name on my forged Swiss passport. I had left my real name, Hannah Vogel, behind. Except for brief visits to London to meet my lover, Boris, I had not had a true conversation with an adult I trusted in more than one thousand days.

"Good day." I looked out the window again. We were nearing a large lake.

"How is the young man of the house?" Señor Santana nodded to Anton and snapped his fingers for Dieter, the waiter. Twice. "Bring me a cup of that excellent coffee!"

"Yes, sir." Dieter's gray eyes searched in vain for the beautiful Señora Santana.

"Have I told you my plantation supplies the coffee for the zeppelin line?" asked Señor Santana.

"You have." Several times.

"Wonderful harvest this year." Señor Santana produced two sheets of stationery from the pocket of his cream-colored linen suit. Even at its hottest, Europe was no match for South America in temperature, and he always looked crisp and fresh.

"Will you show me a new plane?" Anton asked. "Please? Please?"

"Do not beg." I tousled his short blond hair. Without turning, he removed my hand. Too old for that, at nine?

"My husband loves being begged for his silly planes." Señora Santana, a former flamenco dancer, made her entrance. She paused at the edge of the viewing area, as if expecting applause, patted her sleek black hair, and dropped gracefully into a chair. Spicy perfume drifted over me, and I coughed.

Anton ran to her, hand out.

"That counts as begging." We had left Pernambuco, Brazil five days ago and his manners had already deteriorated.

Señora Santana laughed and dropped a chocolate-covered ball of shredded coconut into his palm.

"Gracias," he said, around the sweet.

"Thank you," I said as well. The Santanas seemed harmless. They were traveling to Hamburg to visit his warehouses. Fashion interested her more than politics, he spoke only of the coffee business, and neither was outwardly pro-Nazi.

I turned to the window as we floated north over the midnight-blue mass of the lake. Cool air dried the sweat on my arms and raised goose bumps. The lake looked too large to be Lake Zurich. The only lake this large in Switzerland was Lake Constance. Its depths were frigid in both winter and summer. But on the northern edge of Lake Constance lay Germany.

Dieter set Señor Santana's drink next to him and he took a large sip. He handed a sheet of paper to Anton with trembling fingers. Nervous energy, or too much of his own product?

"A drink, Frau Santana?" Dieter was besotted with the glamorous Bolivian and rarely let her out of sight. His fingers fidgeted with brass buttons on his jacket.

"Please." Her accent lent the German words an alluring lilt. "A cold lemonade."

I rubbed my palms along my cold arms, fighting to stay calm while we flew north. It was probably a sightseeing diversion. No need to worry.

Anton drew a feather, his Indian symbol, and scribbled his first name inside it. He loved Karl May's popular Westerns and wanted to become an Apache brave like Winnetou. He had invented an Indian communication system, complete with symbols, twigs, and smoke signals.

"Can you show me a new design?" Anton asked. "A plane I never saw before?"

Señor Santana tapped the sheet with his bitten fingernails. "Perhaps you have seen them all."

He and his wife exchanged a smile as Anton looked stricken. Watching him squirm was part of their game.

The northern edge of the lake came into view. Fishing boats dotted the beach, and dark pines surrounded a German lakeside town. I stared down, heart racing.

"Maybe one more." I barely heard his words, but I knew behind me Señor Santana folded a new plane, fingers quick and dexterous, and Anton copied each movement, tongue peeking out of the corner of his mouth as he concentrated.

"Always straight creases," he said, before Señor Santana could remind him. I nodded without moving from the window.

The pines were beneath us now. We were in German air space. I inhaled sharply.

"What's wrong?" Anton's voice sounded worried.

"I do not know, yet." I never lied to him, although it would be easier. "But we are off course."

"Probably nothing." Señor Santana patted my arm. "A course correction. No danger. Zeppelins are very safe."

"Indeed." Did he know how easily the zeppelin's hydrogen-filled envelope could ignite? We might as well be riding a bomb. Into Germany. But at least we were not descending. Yet.

Señora Santana fanned herself with a painted black fan, nails flashing crimson. "Where is that boy with my lemonade?"

"A side trip could be an interesting diversion, don't you think?" Señor Santana set his airplane next to his empty coffee cup.

"I have an important appointment in Switzerland. Not Germany."

"Germany!" Anton gave me a worried look before tossing his new airplane out the viewing window. The greetings he sent to each country we visited spiraled down toward our homeland.

After we lost sight of the plane's white form, he waved to people below, as he always did. When we flew low over South America, everyone waved back: men waved tanned arms, housewives waved aprons, children waved handkerchiefs or leaves, babies waved sticky fists.

But in Germany only children waved. Adults scuttled into houses or under trees.

In spite of Hitler's rhetoric, Germany was at peace with her neighbors. What had its citizens to fear from the sky? I had more to fear from the land now that Nazis ruled it. If I landed in Germany, Röhm's men would kill me and snatch Anton.

I cursed the day I had accepted the assignment, of chronicling the zeppelin's voyage, from the Swiss magazine where I worked, under a pseudonym, as a travel writer. I had almost turned it down. But I longed to return to Europe. I wanted to see Boris. I missed him. I missed the feel of his body next to mine, his smell, the sound of his laugh, his tenderness with Anton, and his solidity. He was the only tie to my old self, and the one person I dared to trust. On the sultry streets of Rio de Janeiro, the danger of Germany had seemed very far away. Like a fool, I had agreed to go.

"We're docking," Anton shouted.

The zeppelin's motors had changed pitch. He was correct.

"Could you please keep an eye on him?" I asked the Santanas. "I must fetch my hat."

"But of course." Señora Santana laid her arm possessively across Anton's shoulders. "The boys will make more airplanes."

"Wait here, Anton. Until I come for you."

A grim look that should have belonged to an adult crossed his face. I trusted him to stay, brave but worried, until I returned. He caught my eye and winked. I touched my left eyebrow, our secret farewell gesture.

I walked out of the viewing room at a measured pace, but as soon as I was out of sight, I sprinted down the opulent corridor to our cabin. The carpeted floor swayed beneath me and I staggered.

When I opened our door, the scent of Argentinian roses enveloped me. Every day the steward replaced the bouquet. Just the kind of lovely and extravagant gesture my flamboyant brother had adored in the years before his murder. He had been dead for three years; I grieved still.

The cabin looked in order: beds folded flush to the wall, neatly packed suitcases lined up by the door, camp stool covered with my contraband newspapers. Since suspending freedom of the press, along with most other freedoms, a prison sentence awaited anyone bringing foreign newspapers into Germany.

I glanced at the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung from the twenty-fourth of June 1934. The Führer and Il Duce shook gloved hands. Mussolini wore a black hat set straight across his head, a well-tailored uniform, and the air of confidence that befits the fascist dictator of an entire country. Hitler carried his homburg half crumpled in his hand. He wore a baggy raincoat belted too high and an aggrieved expression. Someday, Hitler's insecure smile seemed to say, I too will sweep away the last vestiges of freedom and own my land as you do yours; remember that when you deal with me. Mussolini smiled back, unimpressed.

What had really happened at that meeting? The world might never know, with most of the once-powerful political journalists dead, in concentration camps, or in hiding. If I had not fled Germany, I would be among their ranks and, while I was grateful for my freedom and the time with Anton, I felt guilty for not exposing Germany's sad and dangerous story to the world.

On top of the newspaper rested a twig with one bend in it, a secret Indian message that Anton had last stood here alone. One bend, one person. I slipped the twig into my dress pocket.

I scooped up the newspapers and dumped them on the floor at the end of the corridor. No point in going to prison for those, assuming I evaded prison for kidnapping. I grabbed our suitcases and hurried to the control room.

Captain Schmelling stood in front of the spoked wheel, gauges ranged on both sides. Struts angled off either end of the dash. Anton adored the captain and had spent every moment he could in the control room, the top of his head barely level with the chrome compass. He even flew the zeppelin for a moment. After deeming the quietly anti-Nazi captain unlikely to have connections to Röhm's SA, I had felt safe enough to let Anton enjoy his time in the male world of zeppelin officers. I regretted it. Who had alerted Röhm?

Although it was strictly forbidden, I turned the round doorknob and entered. Captain Schmelling spared me a quick look. "Women are not permitted on the bridge." He gestured to his first mate.

"Why are we landing in Germany?" I sidestepped the mate.

"Engine trouble." Captain Schmelling looked straight ahead. "We must make minor repairs at the main hangar in Friedrichshafen. All passengers are to disembark."

He nodded again to his first mate, who grabbed my arm and propelled me out of the control room.

"Have a cool drink at the lounge. The delay is regrettable, but unavoidable." The mate noticed my suitcases. "You won't need those."

I pulled my elbow out of his grip and ran back to Anton. Engine trouble. I could not make myself believe it. In our lives, nothing was accidental.

What would Röhm expect? For us to assume we had landed in Switzerland and walk off with the other passengers? He would station men by the ladder. Hide? He would ransack the zeppelin.

That left running. And he was a canny old soldier. He would position men at the exits.

A hot breeze from the land streamed through the gondola windows and against my face, replacing the cool breezes from the lake. All around the gondola, windows stood open to keep the passengers cool. He might not have foreseen that. What if we climbed out a window at the rear of the zeppelin and exited out the back of the hangar? At two hundred thirty-six meters, the zeppelin was big enough to hide the Reichstag building. More than big enough to conceal us while we made our escape.

I hoped.

The landing looked typical. Men raced across the withered field to catch ropes dropped from the sides of the zeppelin. No sign of brown-shirted storm troopers.

I placed our suitcases outside the viewing area so the other passengers would not see them. Anton stood between the Santanas, his arm pointing out the window.

"Anton." I touched his bony shoulder. "You did not pack your bag. Come."

He raised his delicate eyebrows in surprise, as he always packed his bag perfectly, but he said nothing. He knew I would not tell a lie about his bags without a good reason. I longed to tousle his hair, grateful for the trust between us. It had kept us alive so far.

"Excuse us," I said to the Santanas.

"You must do your chores properly," Señor Santana said. "Especially since you are the man of the house and must take care of your mother."

"I will always take care of her."

"Such a serious boy!" Señora Santana fanned herself again. "He needs more fun in his life."

"He is a little man," her husband argued. "Fun is only for small boys."

"Fun is for everyone." I wished Anton had more of it.

He followed me to the hall.

"We are not going out the front," I said when we were alone.

"Why?" His voice dropped to a whisper.

Our lives together had been too filled with secrets. "I think there are men here for us."

During the voyage I had scouted the passages and rooms. We made a detour to a supply closet to snag a coil of rope I had seen there. After I draped the heavy rope over my shoulder, we hurried toward the rear. The interior grew more and more utilitarian until we teetered along a metal catwalk.

The floor jerked, and I stumbled. They had tied off to the mooring mast. Next we would be towed backward into the massive hangar. That meant we had only minutes until the passengers climbed down the long wooden ladder to the ground.

Together we ran to the back window. I measured with my hands. Barely large enough. My size did not help in a fight, but it was an asset while running. I glanced at the concrete floor, four meters below, then tied the rope to the frame that separated two windows. I yanked. The frame held firm. Good German engineering.

Anton's eyes shone. He loved adventure, and it had been so long since we had been in immediate danger he had almost forgotten it was no game. That was just as well. It would do no good to have him too terrified to think. When danger threatened, let him keep his head clear and be strong like Winnetou.

"As soon as we stop," I said, "I will throw our bags out the window, then drop the rope. On my signal, climb down as fast as you can. Run to the wall and wait."

If we hurried, we might get out of the hangar and around to the front of the airport before the storm troopers noticed we were not among the other passengers.

The zeppelin slipped inside the hangar. Everything darkened. He clutched my hand. A brave nine year old, but he still had limits.

The zeppelin stopped. We bobbed in place. I dropped the suitcases and rope to the hangar floor. A gray comma of rope curled on the faraway concrete.

I hoisted him out the window. Rope burned against my palms as I slid down after. The hard floor jolted my ankles, but I snatched up the suitcases and sprinted toward the back wall. His white singlet flitted ahead of me like a moth.

At the start of the trip, the captain had informed us the hangar was so immense it had its own weather patterns. Sometimes clouds and rain formed inside. Right now it was clear and too hot, the same as outside. I hefted the suitcases and sprinted, winded. The singlet stopped. He had reached the wall.

"Come along," I whispered. Vast emptiness swallowed my voice. I peeked over my shoulder at the rippling silver surface of the zeppelin. My gaze rose to the huge swastikas painted on the tail fins. How had this happened to my country, the land of Goethe and Schiller?

Anton grabbed the handle of his suitcase, and we skirted the wall, heading for the back exit. The sunset outlined the front of the hangar in orange, but little light penetrated this far.

My ragged breathing pricked my nerves. Stealth and speed were our only weapons.

An arm encircled my neck. A hard muscle pressed against my throat. Anton cried out, but I could not see him.

"Shut your trap," breathed a squeaky voice in my ear. A cold blade pressed against my ribs. "I can let some air into you. We only need the boy."

I nodded my chin against his arm. The knife retreated, but the man held my neck fast. His sweat smelled of vinegar.

"Put her out," said a voice with a Swiss accent.

The honey odor of chloroform suffused the air. I held my breath. Too late. My captor gripped me so tightly I did not fall.