Field Gray

2011 ~ Bernie Gunther Book 7 ~ UK edition titled FIELD GREY

"A man doesn't work for his enemies unless he has little choice in the matter." So says Bernie Gunther. It is 1954 and Bernie is in Cuba. Tiring of his increasingly dangerous work spying on Meyer Lansky, Bernie acquires a boat and a beautiful companion and quits the island. But the US Navy has other ideas, and soon he finds himself in a place with which he is all too familiar—a prison cell. After exhaustive questioning, he is flown back to Berlin and yet another prison cell with a proposition: work for French intelligence or hang for murder. The job is simple: he is to meet and greet POWs returning to Germany and to look out for one in particular, a French war criminal and member of the French SS who has been posing as a German Wehrmacht officer. The French are anxious to catch up with this man and deal with him in their own ruthless way. But Bernie's past as a German POW in Russia is about to catch up with him -- in a way he could never have foreseen.

Bernie Gunther's seventh outing delivers more of the fast-paced and quick-witted action that we have come to expect from Philip Kerr. Set in Cuba, a Soviet POW camp, Paris, and Berlin, and ranging over a period of 20 years from the 1930s to the 1950s, FIELD GRAY is an outstanding thriller by a writer at the top of his game.

Philip Kerr on FIELD GRAY: "I like shaking up the series every time. I don't like writing the same book again and again. I believe that it's important to take risks, and to that end I like to challenge people's expectations. I don't know how long I can keep reinventing things, though. And the minute I think I am repeating myself, which, after all, is the basis of so much modern publishing, I will drop Bernie and try something different. However, I did have an agenda with Field Gray and it is complicated. I wanted to make some modern political points as well as some historical ones. I will leave readers to work out what these might be. That's the fun of reading, after all." ~ Kirkus Reviews

Critical Praise

"Kerr finally fills in Gunther's war years by letting him get caught by the Americans in a smuggling operation off the coast of pre-Castro cuba. Gunther's interrogation provides a plot that melds Nazism, the Stasi and the CIA in a brilliantly crafted challenge to the stereotypical received history of the Second World War: a thriller that will challenge preconceptions and stimulate the little grey cells..." ~ The Times of London

"This is a book about the Second World War like no other, seen through the eyes of a sympathetic character, dressed in a uniform emblematic of evil. Both gripping and intellectually challenging." ~ The Times of London

"With great audacity, Kerr junks all the usual suspense techniques in a narrative that is less to do with a body count than with the protagonist's collusion with his corrupt society. What is more, in FIELD GREY the reader is asked to draw his or her own conclusions. It is a daring (perhaps foolhardy) move, but Kerr has shown that he is not averse to such risk-taking... The new book may downplay the tension of earlier Gunther offerings, but its aspirations are markedly higher. The novel deals with his hero's military service in the SS. Kerr has not revealed this side of Gunther before—perhaps because it would risk alienating readers... There is a price to pay for revealing this part of Gunther's career. It would be safer to distance the protagonist from his monstrous bosses, but Kerr eschews the easy option and invites us to make up our own minds about Gunther's compromised actions. Bernie is a member of the SS and kills partisans—but we are reminded that the partisans were killing German soldiers. It is a brave tactic, but a measure of Kerr's skill that such ambiguity makes FIELD GREY so challenging a novel." ~ The Independent

"A complicated, clever thriller, beautifully written and evocative." ~ The Literary Review

"Gunther is stamped in the classic mold: a smart, sardonic, hardheaded skirt-chaser with something of a mean streak. But here's the twist: Gunther quit the force in disgust after Adolf Hitler moved in, but somehow survived… FIELD GRAY gives Kerr a chance to address some knotty, ambiguous questions of loyalty and duty in wartime. I can't give away too much of this riveting book's secrets, except to say: Gunther's no angel, but he's not the devil either." ~ The Seattle Times

"Kerr is a master of evoking the spirit of the age, especially when describing the dark, turbulent days of Weimar Berlin. He has clearly done his homework and brings an admirable whiff of authenticity to proceedings, providing historical characters and real events to punctuate his story. Kripo chief Arthur Nebe and head of the Stasi Erich Mielke feature strongly, for instance, and the narrative is skillfully woven into the genuine events of the period, from the political violence of inter-war Berlin to the awful nemesis of German POWs in the postwar Soviet Union." ~ Financial Times

"The flashbacks are easily followed, from pre-war Berlin to the murderous hell of the 1941 Eastern Front to postwar slave-labor camps behind the Iron Curtain. Those dealing with Gunther's search for a German communist in 1940 France are truly revealing, especially the descriptions of historical places like the concentration camps in Vichy France. While some might quibble over occasional long sequences of dialogue that would be better served with tags, Kerr writes Gunther as he should be—world-weary, sardonic and as independent as an introspective man might be as he ricochets between murderous criminals, hell-bent Nazis or revenge-minded communists. The double-double cross denouement suggests Gunther will live to fight another day. An accomplished thriller. ~ Kirkus Reviews

"Bernie Gunther is the most anti-heroic of anti-heroes in this gripping, offbeat thriller. It's the story of his struggle to preserve what's left of his humanity, and his life, in a world where the moral bandwidth is narrow: satanic evil at one end, cynical expediency at the other." ~ Philip Caputo

"As a portrayal of the conflict between practical necessity and moral principle, told with a mixture of interrogation and action and set in the corrupting world of international espionage, this is far more illuminating and enjoyable than the season's other big thriller, John Le Carre's Our Kind Of Traitor." ~ Daily Express

"The role of the Left in 20th-century Germany is a key thread running through [FIELD GREY]... The novels mix fast-talking, hardboiled crime writing and ambitious, well-researched historical fiction delivered in Gunther's witty, sardonic monologue. If Kerr has fun giving cameos to leading Nazis (Goebbels is amusingly described as 'a malignant goblin on his best behaviour') he gets away with it because he knows his stuff. FIELD GREY is ambitious in approaching these complex questions, and Kerr does it with flourishes of daring (at one point, Kerr has Gunther imprisoned in the very cell where Hitler wrote MEIN KAMPF, conversing with the Führer's ghost). Though there is no shortage of crimes in this book, it all but leaves the conventions of crime writing behind to do something more complex and perhaps more satisfying." ~ The Scotsman

"Painstakingly researched and beautifully written, as always, this is a fine addition to a fine series." ~ Bookpage

"The great strength of the novel is Kerr's overpowering portrait of the war's horrors... The glue holding it all together is Bernie himself, our battered, defiant German Everyman... Bernie's a-plague-on-all-your-houses mind-set leads to the novel's truly shocking ending, one that left me with no idea what lies ahead for him, only the devout hope that his story will continue." ~ The Washington Post

Honors and Awards


Meet Philip Kerr

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