Nov. 24, 2017

Chris Clarke's Review of “Berlin Noir” a trilogy by Philip Kerr.

The first novel in the series “March Violets”, is about an ex-cop private investigator in Berlin in the 1930s. Initially, it seemed like Mickey Spillane meets Christopher Isherwood. The need to learn the anglicised vocabulary of 1930’s Berlin law enforcement seemed challenging. The payoff is that it helps to bring Nazi Berlin to life.

 By the time the reader moves on to “The Pale Criminal” in the WWII years, the full corruption and infighting of the Nazis has blossomed.

 The sleazy, dystopian regime and the tough and cynical lead character of Bernie Gunther are all too credible. The involvement of such nasty Nazis as Goering, Himmler and Heydrich works, but stretches credibility when he cheeks them with apparent impunity.

 In many ways, the third book, “A German Requiem” is the best. Gunther survived the war. Amidst the bombed-out wreckage of post war Berlin and Vienna he still has to deal with Nazis, but the corrupt and often brutal allied victors are added to the mix. The graphic descriptions of the continued brutality, murder, rape and pillaging are very realistic.

 The plots of the three books are standard private detective fair, but well executed. The apocalyptic settings and portrayal of the culture propel them into exceptional reads.