Several elements account for the excellence of the Gunther books. First, Kerr is a fine novelist; in terms of narrative, dialogue, plot, pace and characterizations, he's in a league with John le Carré and Alan Furst. Moreover, he has done prodigious research into an era that ended well before he was born. The political, historical, military and cultural details on every page feel absolutely authentic. If you want a sense of what Nazi Germany was like, day to day, not many novels equal these. Finally, Kerr was truly inspired to place a detective-turned-private eye at work in Nazi Germany. Private eyes investigate crimes, and where in human history can we find more cosmic crimes than those of the Hitler era? The question was whether Kerr would be equal to the challenge he set for himself. He has been.
The Washington Post
Because he never had any illusions to begin with, Gunther is the ideal narrator for Kerr’s bleak tale of the dirty deals made by victors and vanquished alike. Having learned that there’s no way to distinguish “the one from the other,” the cynical P.I. has the moral clarity to see through the deceit and hypocrisy of both friend and foe. He’s the right kind of hero for his time — and ours.
The New York Times
Set in 1949, Kerr's excellent fourth novel to feature Bernhard Gunther (after 1991's German Requiem) finds the erstwhile PI managing a failing hotel about a mile from the site of the Dachau concentration camp. After the death of his wife, Kirsten, in a mental hospital, he calls it quits and opens a private detective agency. A series of missing-Nazi cases sets Bernie on a course that becomes increasingly complicated until he's beaten to a near pulp, had his little finger chopped off and is sent to a mysterious private estate to recover. There he's drawn into a nightmare involving the American occupation and the CIA, and soon his life hangs in the balance. Kerr's stylish noir writing makes every page a joy to read ("The little mouth tightened into a smile that was all lips and no teeth, like a newly stitched scar"). Perfectly plotted, the book builds to a satisfying conclusion. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Fifteen years after his last Bernie Gunther thriller (A German Requiem), Kerr turns his Berlin Noir trilogy into a quartet. In 1949, Bernie closes down his deranged wife's failing hotel in Berlin and returns to Munich. Drawing on his experience as an ex-cop involuntarily absorbed into the SS during World War II a past that will dog his heels he goes into business as a private detective. His first three cases involve missing persons, including a Nazi guilty of numerous atrocities. To track the man down, Bernie has to immerse himself in a world he'd hoped to leave behind, that of the "Old Comrades" who help Nazis flee Germany. But dangerous as it is, the case is not what it seems, and Bernie soon finds himself in another man's shoes, locked in a desperate struggle to save his own life. Bernie's wicked wit is a delight, the plot is gripping, and the historical settings are masterfully developed. Although Kerr sometimes overdoes his descriptions of characters (wildly inventive similes abound), his dazzling touch will sweep readers away. A profound sense of moral introspection underlies the whole. Highly recommended for all public libraries. Ron Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
After 15 years, Kerr (Hitler's Peace, 2005, etc.) dusts off his most compelling protagonist: Bernie Gunther, postwar Berlin's hardest-boiled PI. Last seen in A German Requiem (1991), Bernie's still ready to nail bad guys-if only there weren't so many of them. Ex-Nazis, collaborators of every description, Messalina-like ladies as beautiful as they are wicked . . . the Teutonic melting pot brims with no-goods. As for Bernie himself, well, his copybook is hardly un-blotted. Not that he'd ever been happy about enlisting in the S.S., which, in fact, had been more an impressment than an enlistment. But there are things in his recent past that Bernie isn't proud of, and now he stands an excellent chance of adding to the list. Long-legged, elegant, self-confident Frau Britta Warzok "looked as if she needed help as much as Venice needed rain," but nevertheless she's come to Bernie's office requesting some. She wants him to find her husband, a death-camp commander who is now among the most-sought-after of war criminals. When Bernie points out this unpleasant fact, Frau Warzok explains that what she wants is for him to find her husband dead so that she, a good Roman Catholic, can marry someone else. Leery of the gig but hurting for cash, Bernie signs on. The search does nothing to change his bleak opinion, hardened by a spell in a Soviet POW camp, that "the human propensity to be inhumane" is practically limitless. As a kind of epiphany, it suddenly occurs to our hard-pressed hero that the hunt for Friedrich Warzok has transmogrified into a well-mounted, ill-intentioned, almost-certain-to-succeed hunt for Bernie Gunther. Grim and gripping, with all the author's customary sure-handedness in evidence.
Praise for Philip Kerr and the Bernie Gunther Novels
“A brilliantly innovative thriller writer.”—Salman Rushdie
“Philip Kerr is the only bona fide heir to Raymond Chandler.”—Salon.com
“In terms of narrative, plot, pace and characterization, Kerr’s in a league with John le Carré.”—The Washington Post
“Every time we’re afraid we’ve seen the last of Bernie Gunther, Philip Kerr comes through with another unnerving adventure for his morally conflicted hero.”—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“Just as youth is wasted on the young, history is wasted on historians. It ought to be the exclusive property of novelists—but only if they are as clever and knowledgeable as Philip Kerr.”—Chicago Tribune
“Kerr quantum leaps the limitations of genre fiction. Most thrillers insult your intelligence; his assault your ignorance.”—Esquire
“A richly satisfying mystery, one that evokes the noir sensibilities of Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald while breaking important new ground of its own.”—Los Angeles Times
“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)
“The Bernie Gunther novels are first-class, as stylish as Chandler and as emotionally resonant as the best of Ross Macdonald.”—George Pelecanos
“Kerr’s stylish noir writing makes every page a joy to read.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)