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Berlin Noir: March Violets, The Pale Criminal, A German Requiem (Bernie Gunther, 1-3)

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I had read the first two books in the series, and was trying to separate my reviews, but I ended up putting a general review on the trilogy rather than critiquing each book separately as was my intent. Set two years after "March Violets" in 1938 against a backdrop of the Munich Agreement and Kristallnacht Kerr deftly weaves fact and fiction as Gunther is engaged by a wealthy Frau to trace a blackmailer; but before you know it he's co-opted back into the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo), now part of Himmler's Reich Security Organisation, to investigate the serial sex-murders of Aryan teenage girls, killings with links to a conspiracy at the core of the SS [and of course in the best fictional style to the original throw-away blackmail story].

In the bitter winter of 1947, as the Russian Zone closes around the ruined city, Berliners live on fear and dubiously earned PX goods.

I guess I'm a little skeptical of the portrayal of average Germans being largely opposed to Hitler and the Nazis. Over 10 years elapsed between the publication of the novels in the Berlin Noir set and the three stand-alone titles that complete the Bernie Gunther series to date. Gunther is forced to accept a temporary post in Obergruppenfuehrer Reinhard Heydrich's state Security Service, with a team of men underneath him tasked purely with hunting the killer. Occasionally he will foreshadow some event, suggesting that if he had known then what he came to know later he might have acted or spoken differently – but even in those instances he doesn’t reveal too much to the reader, leaving that lovely uncertainty as motivation for turning the page again and again.

Although most of the action in The One From the Other takes place in 1949, Kerr provides a 37-page prologue to anticipate some of the later plot threads. Before the war the Nazis and after the war the United States and the Soviet Union act as deux ex machina in these stories in a satisfying ways, showing the ubiquity of their control of their societies, government as a criminal conspiracy.That piece takes place in 1937, or in between the story lines of March Violets and The Pale Criminal. Now published in one paperback volume, these three mysteries are exciting and insightful looks at life inside Nazi Germany -- richer and more readable than most histories of the period. Herr Six happens to have a drop-dead beautiful wife and Bernie picks up an equally attractive assistant, Inge Lorenz, who disappears without a trace toward the end of the novel. is not above using a little blackmail to obtain Gunther's racially unbiased services to catch the real culprit. After he resigned, he took a job as house detective at the Adlon Hotel and remained there for about a year, until he left to become his own boss, using money he received from one of his lady friends.

stars, and I may read more of his books, despite the fact they are potboilers, and despite his anti-French prejudice. And yet, despite the vein of horror and tragedy that runs through every page of these novels, they remain a pleasure to read, largely due to their narrator, private eye Bernie Gunther. After a break of some fifteen years, Kerr resurrected Gunther for a storming sequence of novels, set before, during and after WWII, fully fleshing out this dark, conspiratorial universe into one of fiction’s great story arcs. His idea for Bernie came the moment he found himself wondering what Raymond Chandler would have come up with if instead of leaving London for Los Angeles, he’d gone east, to Berlin,” was how The Telegraph put it in a Kerr profile. Boldly asking for the temporary rank of Kommissar, Gunther finds that a murder hunt for a perverted criminal soon escalates beyond all his predictions.The Bernie Gunther novels are first-class, as stylish as Chandler and as emotionally resonant as the best of Ross Macdonald. My perusal of Web sites did give me a heads up that I can expect to see another Bernie Gunther installment in a year or so: Field Grey is coming out in the UK in July 2010. And they practiced the same sort of theft in the countries they occupied; Nazism was more like an organized crime syndicate running a government than what we think of as a government.

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