Does a really good job of evoking the complex social, political atmosphere of prewar thru postwar berlin
A great hardboiled German investigator, Bernie Gunther,worth reading for not only the plot but the language.
Ex-policemen, Bernie Gunther, thought he's seen everything on the steets of 1930s Berlin. But then he went freelance, and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of the Nazi subculture. And even after the war, amidst the decayed, imperial splendour of Vienna, Bernie uncovered a legacy that made the wartime atrocities look lily white by comparison...
....taken from the back cover of the book
5/23/17: Finished the first book of the trilogy, March Violets. I quite enjoyed this first book in the Bernie Gunther series and I will be looking forward to the other two in this trilogy. I also have a few of the other books in the series that I will be reading. March Violets takes place in Berlin in 1936, the year the Olympics were held there. The term March Violet refers to a German who joins the Nazi party late in the game to gain favor from the party and take advantage of being a Nazi. Bernie, a private investigator working in Berlin and former Kripo (Kriminalpolizei) police officer, is hired by a rich industrialist, Herr Six, to find out who killed his daughter and her husband and stole a very valuable diamond necklace from the couples' safe. As Bernie investigates, it turns out that there is more than one mystery to solve...in addition to the stolen necklace, some papers that may incriminate Six were also stolen and are wanted by others in the German regime including Goering and Heydrich. Bernie gets involved with some very unsavory people on his way to try and unravel the events that led to the murders and theft. He has a brief affair and encounter with Six's wife, a German film star, gets involved with the Berlin underworld and at one point attends the Olympics to see Jesse Owens outrun the "superior race" of Germans. Toward the end, he ends up in Dachau concentration camp to try to find where the documents are hidden. This part of the book was quite harrowing in its descriptions of the camp. There was also a quite unexpected twist in who the culprits were who stole the necklace. Overall, a pretty good noir novel taking place in the horror that was Nazi Germany.
6/7/17: Finished The Pale Criminal. This one take place in 1938, two years after the events in the previous novel. Gunther is hired by a wealthy woman to find out who is blackmailing her with evidence of her son's homosexuality. Bernie has taken on a partner in this outing who ends up being killed when he was surveilling a suspect in the blackmail case. Then Bernie gets called in by Heydrich to work a case involving the serial killing of young Aryan girls. Heydrich insists that Gunther rejoin the Kripo because most of the competent police have been taken by the Nazi party. When he gets on the case it becomes apparent that the young girls are being killed and the blame is pointed toward the Jews. But what is really going on? The plot involves several high ranking SS officers including Himmler and a ruse involving spiritualism. Although Gunther is trying to take the blame from the Jews and is successful with this, the horrors awaiting them is not diminished and near the end of the book Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass emphasizes this. Overall, another good entry in this series although in some cases Gunther was a little over the top in his misogynistic portrayals of women and his deriding of homosexuals. However, I think this was intended to show how this was portrayed at the time and is pretty much in line with other hard-core detective fiction of the 40s and 50s.
6/14/17: Finished the third and final book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, A German Requiem. This one, in my opinion, was probably the best of the three and definitely the most complex. It takes place in 1947 and 1948 in post-war Berlin and Vienna. Bernie had managed to escape from a Russian prison camp where he spent the last part of the war and he and his wife are trying to eke out an existence in the war-savaged Berlin of 1947. Not only is the city almost totally destroyed but it is also being held hostage by the Russian Communists. His wife does whatever it takes to make ends meet and some of this does not set well with Bernie. He agrees to travel to Vienna at the behest of a high-ranking Russian officer to try to prove the innocence of Bernie's old colleague from Kripo, Emil Becker, who is accused of killing an American Counter Intelligence officer. But is this the real purpose of sending Bernie to Vienna. He ends up getting enmeshed in the operations of the Americans and the Russians and a plot where the Americans may be using ex-Nazi war criminals in their beginning cold war against the Communists. The story was very engaging and emphasized the hardship of post-war conditions in Germany and Austria, occupation by the Allied Powers, espionage activities between them, and the secret post-war resurgence of Nazi war criminals.
Overall, I would give a high recommendation to the entire Berlin Noir trilogy. Kerr wrote this trilogy in 1989 - 1991 and then continued the Bernie Gunther series in 2006. I will be reading more of it...