Field Gray (Bernie Gunther Series #7)

( 25 )

Overview

Philip Kerr delivers a novel with the noir sensibility of Raymond Chandler, the realpolitik of vintage John le Carré, and the dark moral vision of Graham Greene.

"Bernie Gunther is the most antiheroic of antiheroes 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, author of A Rumor of ...

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Field Gray (Bernie Gunther Series #7)

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Overview

Philip Kerr delivers a novel with the noir sensibility of Raymond Chandler, the realpolitik of vintage John le Carré, and the dark moral vision of Graham Greene.

"Bernie Gunther is the most antiheroic of antiheroes 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, author of A Rumor of War

"A thriller that will challenge preconceptions and stimulate the little grey cells."
-The Times (London), selecting Field Gray as a Thriller of the Year

"Part of the allure of these novels is that Bernie is such an interesting creation, a Chandleresque knight errant caught in insane historical surroundings. Bernie walks down streets so mean that nobody can stay alive and remain truly clean."
-John Powers, Fresh Air (NPR)

Bernie on Bernie: I didn't like Bernhard Gunther very much. He was cynical and world-weary and hardly had a good word to say about anyone, least of all himself. He'd had a pretty tough war . . . and done quite a few things of which he wasn't proud. . . . It had been no picnic for him since then either; it didn't seem to matter where he spread life's tartan rug, there was always a turd on the grass.

Striding across Europe through the killing fields of three decades-from riot-torn Berlin in 1931 to Adenauer's Germany in 1954, awash in duplicitous "allies" busily undermining one another-Field Gray reveals a world based on expediency, where the ends justify the means and no one can be trusted. It brings us a hero who is sardonic, tough- talking, and cynical, but who does have a rough sense of humor and a rougher sense of right and wrong. He's Bernie Gunther. He drinks too much and smokes excessively and is somewhat overweight (but a Russian prisoner-of-war camp will take care of those bad habits). He's Bernie Gunther-a brave man, because when there is nothing left to lose, honor rules.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bernie Gunther's past catches up with him in Kerr's outstanding seventh novel featuring the tough anti-Nazi Berlin PI who survived the Nazi regime (after If the Dead Rise Not). In 1954, Bernie is living quietly in Cuba, doing a little work for underworld boss Meyer Lansky, when he runs afoul of the U.S. Navy and lands in prison in Guantánamo. Later, at an army prison in New York City, FBI agents ask him about his service in WWII, in particular as a member of an SS police battalion on the Eastern Front. Another transfer sends him to Germany's Landsberg Prison, where Hitler was imprisoned in 1923. Officials from various governments question and torture him, but grimly amusing Bernie, who's smarter than any of his interrogators, successfully strings each one of them along. Vivid flashbacks chronicle Bernie's harrowing war experiences. Series aficionados and new readers alike will take comfort knowing that Kerr is hard at work on the next installment. Author tour. (Apr.)
Library Journal
If there's a PI with a jaundiced eye, it's Bernie Gunther. During his 11 years as a homicide detective in Berlin, he witnessed every kind of perversion. When the Nazis grab power, he leaves the force, but Hitler's man Reinhard Heydrich soon sinks his claws into him. (Even a Nazi needs an honest cop once in a while.) Bernie becomes Heydrich's tame dog. In 1940, he's shipped to the eastern front dressed in SS field gray. Fast-forward to 1954. Bernie is in Cuba, working for Meyer Lansky and the mob. Things heat up, and he's caught while fleeing the country. The CIA takes custody of him; they need his help to capture an elusive East German security police officer. But to Bernie, the Americans are no different from the Nazis—"the worst kind of fascists. The kind that think they're liberals." They force Bernie to talk through his checkered past, taking us back to 1930s–40s Berlin, Paris, and the Soviet Union. VERDICT As always in a Bernie Gunther title (If the Dead Rise Not), the plotting is twisty, the writing crisp, the atmosphere indisputably noir. Fans of hard-boiled PI novels and all readers interested in the dirty history of Nazi Germany will love this book. They don't come any better. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/10.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Kirkus Reviews

When fans meet Bernie Gunther in this latest saga in the adventurous life of the hard-bitten, sardonic policeman, Kerr's (If the Dead Rise Not, 2010, etc.) stalwart Berliner detective is in pre-Castro Cuba.

But Cuba is no refuge. To prevent being forced to work for Batista, he tries to sail to the Dominican Republic, only to be caught by a U.S. Navy patrol boat. It doesn't help that his passenger is a rebel partisan wanted for murder. Gunther's identity discovered, he is sent first to a military prison in New York City and then to the infamous Landsberg prison where the Weimar Republic held Hitler and where the Allies interrogated, tried and sometimes hanged Nazi war criminals. It does no good for Gunther's future that he had served in a SS military police unit on the bloody Eastern Front and had more than a passing acquaintance with devils like Reinhard Heydrich. Kerr propels the story, framed around historical facts and characters, through several flashbacks. The author's ironic perceptions find an SS colonel quoting Goethe as he presides over the massacre of a town full of Jewish civilians and Gunther wryly observing the Franzis (French), the Amis (Americans) and human nature in general: "Sometime morality is just a corollary of laziness." 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.

Marilyn Stasio
…the darkest and most disturbing of Philip Kerr's novels featuring Bernie Gunther, the former German police officer and wiseguy private eye…
—The New York Times
Patrick Anderson
The great strength of the novel is Kerr's overpowering portrait of the war's horrors…Sometimes I tire of novels about the Nazis. For lazy writers, Hitler and his minions are an easy symbol of evil, one they find more useful than jihadist terrorists, drug lords and serial killers. But Kerr resurrects the past to remind us that the fascist mentality endures, all over the world, even though swastikas and jackboots are no longer its outward trappings.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399157417
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/14/2011
  • Series: Bernie Gunther Series , #7
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 600,398
  • Product dimensions: 9.06 (w) x 6.34 (h) x 1.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr is the author of many novels, but perhaps most important are the five featuring Bernie Gunther—A Quiet Flame, The One from the Other, and the Berlin Noir trilogy (March Violets, The Pale Criminal, and A German Requiem). He lives in London and Cornwall, England, with his family.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 25 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Atmospheric and Noir

    "Field Gray" by Philip Kerr is a fictional novel taking place alternatively between the 1931 and mid 1954, mostly in Berlin. The book is 7th novel starring Bernie Gunther.

    The past of Bernie Gunther catches up with in 1954 Cuba while doing work for mobster boss Meyer Lansky. Even though this anti-Nazi PI survived the Nazi régime and a soviet POW camp it seems his history won't leave him alone.

    Land­ing in the US prison of Guantánamo and later in New York City, Bernie is interrogated by the FBI about his role as a member of an SS police battalion in WWII. Transferred to Landsberg Prison in Germany Bernie is being questioned and tortured by several governments. Stringing them along, Bernie experiences flashbacks which bring back his war experiences, none of which are good.

    I seem to have no luck with series of books I like. I usually find them after several books have been published and feel compelled to play catch up. "Field Gray" by Philip Kerr is no exception on this front.

    The novel follows Bernie Gunther which has to be one of the most anti-heroic antiheroes ever written. Joining Gunther are a bunch of offbeat characters none of which, it seems, have any redeeming qualities. Maybe that's what the "gray" in the title refers to (besides the German army's uniforms made by Hugo Boss) as there are no good or bad guys in this book; they are all shades of gray.

    Mr. Kerr writes with a sardonic, twisted and dark sense humor. This is just the kind of humor which my beloved wife finds adorable in her husband...wait, sorry, she can't stand it - sometimes I get confused between the two.

    The plot kept me going round and round with its twists, as well as thought provoking subjects. I had no idea what would happen until the last few pages. The writing is crisp, atmospheric and noir. Mr. Kerr pulls no punches; he looks at history in the eye, sees all the ugliness which most people would rather forget and instead writes about it.

    Bernie Gunther is an unusual creation; he is cynical, tired, tough on himself and done many things none of us would be proud to do. He is an insane man living in an insane world (does that make him sane?) where the only way to survive is to look out for one self and that means screwing over everyone else (who, by the way, are trying to screw you over). I lose my mind when the cable company charges me a do-nothing-because-we-can fee, but Bernie lives everyday knowing that at any point in time someone can swoop in and destroy everything he built in an instant.

    One of the things which the book, through my interpretation at least, touches is how ordinary people could justify partici­pating in atrocities.
    Think about it.

    There weren't only Nazis in Auschwitz, there were secretaries, cooks, and other administrative nobodies. They bore witness to one of the biggest, if not the biggest, crimes in history yet we have pictures of them enjoying a coun­try side picnic.

    Inadvertently or not, we get a glimpse into that kind of mentality with Bernie Gunther. He was forced into the SS and committed his own atrocities; in his head they are justified.
    We only get to read his side of it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2013

    Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series just keeps getting better a

    Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series just keeps getting better and better. This one covers alot of ground, and has several layers of story-telling, deception and plotting. This one veers from the usual detective-type story to one more in the spy sphere. In fact, I think that with this book, Kerr's comparison to John Le Carre in his prime is well earned. Highly recommend. With the way this one ends, I wonder if there will be any "new" Bernie Gunther stories... I note the next two books all take place in the past...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2013

    Not as good but makes you think

    I didn't think that this book was well written as some of his earlier Bernie Gunther novels but it makes you think. I found myself not liking Bernie Gunther as a character in this book but I am sure that I will decide to forgive him and remake his acquaintance in the next!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2012

    Very Well written. this book has led me to start reading all Bernie Gunther series.

    Well researched historical and detective stories. Since reading this one have read the Berlin Noir trilogy and looking forward to next one and his latest. There is also a sense of humor in his books that reminds me of Nelson De Mille. Good reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2012

    Pretty good

    Interesting journey that takes you on several compelling stops throughout the world in the era dominated by WWII. Sometimes seemed like a collection of separate stories rather than a connected plot, and I got a bit tired of the main character's unvarying personality -- the tough guy always with a cynical quip.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Bringing Berlin To Life

    Phillip Kerr continues in his Bernie Gunther series to bring Nazi Germany to life and help us understand it in a way no history book can. In this novel, Bernie has been taken into custody by the Americans years after the war. He tells his story, in retrospect, in a series of vignettes that bare the travesty and tragedy that his fictional detective witnessed. It would be hard to believe that, in real life, one man had been at all of these places and had seen such torture and death. Sad, indeed. But it's only fiction, right? Bernie's last victory is all the more savored for what he had been through, and one wonders where the story could go from here.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2013

    Great book

    Really good

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  • Posted August 5, 2013

    BN provides the best service:)

    gotta love good ole Bernie!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2011

    Highly recommend

    Great read. Great characters and great story. I loved it...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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