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

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But in occupied Vienna no-one is quite what they appear to be and in the super-powers' hunt for former Nazis that have disappeared Bernie Gunther is the bait. The Bernie Gunther novels are first-class, as stylish as Chandler and as emotionally resonant as the best of Ross Macdonald. For quite a while I pored over the text, turning the pages with my fingers and feasting my eyes on what I had never dreamed of possessing (pp. But he doesn't, and for me, the endless intriguing within the Nazi leadership that underlies much of the more byzantine twists of the trilogy's plots quickly becomes tiresome.

But this series is full of humor, some of it quite ribald, much of it quite mordant, as you might expect, given that Bernie lives through some pretty ugly times. It is a powerful exploration of the occult side of Nazism and a skillful evocation of the social tensions that pervaded prewar Berlin. Although the titles are not all on the same imprint (I have Berlin Noir and The One From the Other in trade paper, the other two in cloth), the series as a whole has a very consistent look in terms of title typeface, layout and cover design. 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.Her hair, which she wore in a bun, was also sable-colored, and, I imagined, every bit as nice to stroke [as her sable coat].

That said, the atmospherics, level of authentic historical detail, and genre-nailing fun kept me going here. But on a seemingly straightforward stakeout, Bruno is killed, and Bernie suddenly finds himself tapped for a much bigger job. They also conjure up a chilling psychological portrait of Germany before and during the war, elevating them beyond pure page-turning crime fiction, for me, into moral literature. As was the case in The One From the Other, Bernie’s earlier experiences are highly relevant to his understanding of his new challenges. 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.This man belonged to a secret society of Nazi hunters, and before he knows it Bernie is face to face with men who have been presumed dead for years. The first book take place in 1936: Hitler is on the rise, people like him, there are some weird laws, Jewish people are slowly trying to flee the country. For example, Kerr could have chosen to end March Violets with Gunther's arrival at Dachau, and spent all or most of the second book with having his sympathetic protagonist struggle to survive, let alone solve his case, there.

The first part, which is considerably longer than the second, takes place in Berlin in 1934, during the time that Bernie worked as a house detective at the Adlon Hotel. Before this novel ends, Bernie gets the crap beat out of him by people in the employ of Heinrich Muller, a Gestapo leader who disappeared after the Fall of Berlin. We use Google Analytics to see what pages are most visited, and where in the world visitors are visiting from. Oh, but our hardbitten narrator-detective has not read the genre, of course, and this awkward bit of authorial obviousness almost caused me to set the book aside.Like a damsel in distress, she enlists Bernie’s aid first with her errant but beautiful 19-year-old daughter Dinah, later with her boyfriend Alfredo Lopez, a dissident lawyer who runs afoul of Batista’s police.

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