Bernie Gunther's back - and for Berlin Noir fans that's good
news! The most recent installments of the series have been a tad hit or miss
and I'm pleased to announce that Prussian Blue hits the bullseye.
Following the usual routine, the novel is split in two,
telling us tales set in 1939 - on the eve of World War Two and 1956 - as Bernie
is hiding out in France. This is not a structure I care for particularly but the
Gunther series is the exception to the rule and makes it work by having Gunther
revisit the '39 territory in the '56 tale and the weight those heavy years have
played on him are shown to good effect.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. What's the darn book
It begins in 1956. The summer season is drawing to a close
andFrench Riviera is
about to end. He quickly falls afoul of Erich Mielke, now working in the GDR
government with the Soviets in East Germany. Mielke has a simple task for
Gunther: murder Anne French, the woman who got the better of Gunther in the
last novel - The Other Side of Silence. And he's certainly given a choice:
commit the murder or die a slow, agonizing death. Knowing full well that Mielke
will do away with him whether he completes the mission or not, Gunther must go
on the run with Stasi agents hot on his heels.
Gunther's hotel job on the
During a brief moment of down time while on the run, Gunther
is drawn back to the assignment Reinhard Heydrich forced him to take in 1939
and a trip to Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgaden. A man has been shot with a
sniper rifle on the balcony and that's just a little too close for Martin
Bormann who is overseeing the preparations for Hitler's return to celebrate his
50th birthday.Thus Gunther is presented
with another simple choice: solve the case in one week or suffer the
consequences. And there's nowhere in Nazi Germany to run this time.
And we're off. With the majority of the novel set in 1939
and the intriguing murder investigation, the flash "forwards" to 1956
are also compelling. The noose tightening around Gunther's neck while on the
run makes for great reading.
The result is a chase tale and police procedural at the same Hitler's
retreat at Berchesgarden and the surrounding area, you'll know it like the back
of your hand by the time you reach the last page. The plotting is also much
leaner. There's no romance for Bernie this time out, which is a good thing.
Sure, women throwing themselves at the hero is a staple of the genre but, being
overplayed as it is, it's tough to bring anything new to the table. Having
Gunther focusing on solving a murder to stay alive and on the run for the same
reason, leaves little room for bedroom antics. The result is a lean, mean,
Nazi-bashing machine. Prussian Blue, though 500+pages, gets the job done quickly and
efficiently and never bogs down. It starts quick and barrels along to a
time. Kerr's writing is always a cut above the norm and his research has rooted
out the telling period detail to place the reader firmly back in those
turbulent years. If you were unfamiliar with
My one knock against the book is
that Gunther, being a policeman of extraordinary experience, should be a little
better at being on the run. He occasionally makes it far too easy for the Stasi
to find him. Perhaps this goes with his cynicism and fatalistic approach to
life and this stage of the game. Or maybe they occur to make the writer's life
easier. Only Kerr can say.
Prussian Blue is a great read! Kerr
has stumbled recently with The Lady From Zagreb in this
reader's opinion but has regained his form with The Other Side of Silence
and this new, kind of sequel. You want action? Prussian Blue's got it.
You want intrigue? Look no further. Kerr has carved out a worthy legacy with
the Bernie Gunther series and Prussian Blue is a significant
entry. It's a fine read. Don't miss it!