It is 1943 and, at the behest of an old friend from the pre-Nazi era, Bernie Gunther is now working in the Wehrmacht’s War Crimes Bureau—which has little to do with crimes against civilians or POWs and much to do with enforcing discipline in the ranks. It is now a month after the Wehrmacht’s surrender at Stalingrad. The tide has turned. The Russians are heading west. While Party loyalists hew to Hitler’s insistence that Germany is winning, commanders on the ground know better. They have taken enormous losses, supplies are thin, morale is low, and discipline is collapsing. In the Bureau, two issues are paramount: protecting the Wehrmacht’s reputation in the face of the inevitable defeat, and, given Hitler's refusal to consider such a possibility, maintaining discipline among the troops. Better to fight on than to hang.
Word has reached Berlin of mass graves in the Smolensk region: Polish army officers bound, shot, and buried in the Katyn Forest. Who is responsible? For once, the army and the Party are aligned. If they can prove definitively that this was the work of the Russians, the Wehrmacht is free of at least this war crime. And for Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels, proof of Russian complicity in the massacre is sure to destroy the Western Alliance, thereby giving Germany a chance to reverse its losses and win the war. It is Bernie’s job to get that proof.
And so Bernie Gunther is dispatched to Smolensk, where truth is as much a victim of war as those dead Polish officers.
"Kerr makes everything look easy, from blending history with a clever and intricate whodunit plot to powerful descriptions of cruelty." ~ Publishers Weekly
"A MAN WITHOUT BREATH is a meticulously researched, superb crime fiction story set on several levels...Philip Kerr blends real history and real historical characters seamlessly…." ~ Norman Price/Euro Crime
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