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

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A German Requiem opens in 1947, in a devastated Berlin, Bernie is again a private detective living day to day and watching his wife romance US soldiers. He is impressed into investigating a double murder, the victims the daughter and son-in-law of a Ruhr industrialist named Hermann Six. 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.

But as Gunther investigates the story twists and turns and he uncovers a complex web of crime and corruption in which both Goering and Heydrich have self-interests to protect … [enough, you can read the precis and plot spoilers elsewhere]. As a reader I was constantly being thrown out of the story by Kerr’s clumsy and overwrought metaphors. They are also a lot of fun with plenty of wisecracks and knowing cultural references(Third Man and Casablanca among the allusions), but for those in love with neat, puzzle like mysteries and happy endings need to travel elsewhere as these are grim. 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. So yes, I enjoyed the books, but I was left wanting more than noir detective stories set in the shadow of the rise of Hitler.These cookies help provide information on metrics the number of visitors, bounce rate, traffic source, etc.

To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Downing’s main character John Russell and Cantrell’s Hannah Vogel are both news reporters, not detectives, so the sensibilities are different. They tickled me to the extent that I quickly stopped caring whether these books were intended as homage or imitation and just started inserting mental rimshots after each went past. The jaundiced world view and the cynical humor make it palatable while the seriousness of what is at stake is retained.

This one struck up with The Great Elector’s Cavalry March and set off at a lick towards the Brandenburger Tor. 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. What Bernie discovers is far worse than a lone madman: an occult conspiracy at the very heart of the Nazi Party. In front of the German War Memorial a company of Reichswehr were making trade for chiropodists to the accompaniment of a brass band. Bernie takes on a case for an attractive woman attempting to establish whether her husband, a particularly vicious Nazi, is alive or dead.

The Berlin Noir trilogy is wholly true to the classic genre popularized by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.Like most hard-boiled detectives, he's got a dry wisecrack for every situation, though he's better at it than most and I actually found myself laughing out loud at many of his comments. Because of course the Argentines have a complete file on Bernie, so they know who he really is and what he’s done (or what someone thinks he’s done) that brought him to South America under an assumed name. 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. Murder, politics and a very nice twist makes March Violets a very good start to a wonderful ride thru this dark part of history. Bernie is still working as a private investigator in Berlin, in shambles from the Allied bombings and divided into four sectors, each governed by a different force (USA, Britain, France and the Soviet Union).

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