Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Book #4

Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr actually comprises the first 3 books of his Berlin Noir trilogy (since expanded to 6 books!) These first three books grab you by the throat and refuse to let go for the entire time you are reading them. In order they are: March Violets (a tale in which intrepid detective Bernie Gunther searches for a missing girl amidst the background of the 1936 Olympics), The Pale Criminal (in which infamous Nazi Reinhard Heydrich brings Bernie back to the police to investigate a murder in 1938) and finally, A German Requiem (which takes place after the war in 1947 with Bernie still struggling to escape the Nazi grip through a shattered Germany and Austria).
These books trace the Nazi arch throughout Europe and, in the next three books of the series South America. What makes these thrillers so fantastic is they are written so beautifully and hauntingly that being drawn in is unavoidable. Philip Kerr mixes humor, with the horrors of the Nazi regime which moves like an inescapable top spinning towards the edge of the table. One of the best things about the books is the way Kerr slowly builds you up and then completely pulls the rug out from under you. His twists are pitch perfect and staggering. Nothing seems out of place, even when Bernie is crossing paths with among others: Herman Goring, Heinrich Mueller, Himmler and Heydrich. He drifts dreamlike amongst the worst of the worst and still comes out seeming to be better than them, even as he frequently drops to their level. Bernie Gunther is a hard nosed detective quick with a quip and his gun. These novels are hard boiled and envoke a range of feelings in the reader. When I finished the second one, centered around the infamous Kristalnacht, I felt almost sick. The third was nearly a spy novel, with Bernie battering between the Americans and Soviets in postwar Europe. The fourth and fifth novels (watch for them in future posts!) were also taut, staggering achievements.
These books combine mystery and history in the best possible way. If you are at all interested in Nazi Germany and like mysteries, READ THIS BOOK! There is also a sixth Bernie Gunther mystery coming out in September, it's already at the top of my "To Buy" list.

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