Berlin Noir

1993 ~ Bernie Gunther Books 1, 2, and 3

March Violets:


Bernhard Gunther is 38 years old, a veteran of the Turkish Front, and an ex-policeman. He's also a private eye, specializing in missing persons, which means that he's a very busy man. Because this is Berlin 1936, and people have a nasty habit of disappearing in Hitler's capital.

A cluster of diamonds sets Bernie off on a new case—diamonds and a couple of bodies. The daughter and son-in-law of Hermann Six, industrialist millionaire and German patriot, have been shot dead in their bed and a priceless necklace stolen from the safe. As Bernie pursues the case through seedy Berlin nightclubs, the building sites for the new autobahns, and even the magnificent Olympic Stadium where Jesse Owens is currently disproving all the fashionable racist theories, so he's led inexorably into the cesspit that is Nazi Germany, travelling the murky paths from the police morgue where missing persons usually end up to, finally, Dachau itself.

MARCH VIOLETS is a vivid and unusual first novel. Stylishly written, powerfully evocative, it offers a convincing picture of life in Nazi Berlin, as well as a private eye in the great tradition of Hammett and Chandler.

The Pale Criminal:


It is September 1938. In a sweltering heat wave, the German people anxiously await the outcome of the Munich conference, wondering if the Fuhrer will plunge Europe into another war.

Private investigator Bernhard Gunther, formerly of Kripo—the Berlin criminal police—is hired by a rich widow to find out who is blackmailing her, an investigation in which he finds himself exploring the crankier side of modern German medicine and psychotherapy. Meanwhile, a brutal serial killer stalks the streets of Berlin, and Kripo, embarrassed at having been caught framing an innocent Jew for the murders, is not above using a little blackmail to obtain Gunther's racially unbiased services to catch the real culprit. Boldly asking for the temporary rank of Kommissar, Gunther finds that a murder hunt for a perverted criminal soon escalates beyond all his predictions.

Hard-hitting, fast-paced, and unfailingly witty, THE PALE CRIMINAL is Philip Kerr's second novel. It is a powerful exploration of the occult side of Nazism and a skillful evocation of the social tensions that pervaded prewar Berlin.

A German Requiem:


In the bitter winter of 1947, as the Russian Zone closes around the ruined city, Berliners live on fear and dubiously earned PX goods. So when an enigmatic Russian colonel asks private eye Bernie Gunther to go to Vienna, where his ex-Kripo colleague Emil Becker faces a murder charge, Bernie doesn't hesitate for long. And Vienna is a different world: prosperous, peaceful, the gracious hostess to the Powers' proliferating bureaucracies, her buildings and consciences almost rebuilt. Not the aptest haven perhaps for a black-marketeer and war criminal—but despite Becker's unsavoury past, Gunther is convinced that the shooting of an American Nazi-hunter is one crime he didn't commit.

Gradually, Gunther discovers that Vienna is a mistress of hypocrisy, her smug facades masking the lethal duplicity of another war. Communism is the Americans' new enemy, and with the Nuremberg trials over, some strange alliances are being forged against the Red Menace—alignments that make many wartime atrocities look lily-white by comparison.

Vividly evoking the atmosphere of postwar Vienna, A GERMAN REQUIEM brings all Philip Kerr's pace and mordant wit to the tangle of guilt, suspicion, and double-dealing that laid the foundations for the Cold War.

Critical Praise

"Brings the rich character of Bernie Gunther to life... Kerr's evocations of the chaos of that time and place make this an absorbing novel." ~ Chicago Tribune

"Philip Kerr is the contemporary master of the morally complex thriller… [A GERMAN REQUIEM], set mainly in postwar Vienna, has an affinity with Graham Greene's THE THIRD MAN, but—dare I say it?—equals or surpasses Greene (and the Carol Reed film featuring Orson Welles) because it doesn't shy away from the Nazi-saturated substratum of the Viennese milieu." ~ New York Observer

Reviews

RickardsRead
The New York Observer
Good Reads
Blogcritics Books
All Intensive Purposes
Mutant Space
Bewildering Stories
Film Noir Foundation
More Than Just Wine
Malcolm Redfellow's Reading Diary


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