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Berlin Noir: March Violets; The Pale Criminal; A German Requiem Paperback – January 1, 1994

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Berlin Noir: March Violets; The Pale Criminal; A German Requiem + The One from the Other: A Bernie Gunther Novel + A Quiet Flame: A Bernie Gunther Novel
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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. We first meet ex-policeman Bernie Gunther in 1936, in March Violets (a term of derision which original Nazis used to describe late converts.) The Olympic Games are about to start; some of Bernie's Jewish friends are beginning to realize that they should have left while they could; and Gunther himself has been hired to look into two murders that reach high into the Nazi Party. In The Pale Criminal, it's 1938, and Gunther has been blackmailed into rejoining the police by Heydrich himself. And in A German Requiem, the saddest and most disturbing of the three books, it's 1947 as Gunther stumbles across a nightmare landscape that conceals even more death than he imagines. (For a review of Kerr's latest novel, The Grid, see our Thrillers section.)

About the Author

Philip Kerr is the author of many novels, but perhaps most important are the five featuring Bernie Gunther—A Quiet Flame, The One from the Other, and the Berlin Noir trilogy (March Violets, The Pale Criminal, and A German Requiem). He lives in London and Cornwall, England, with his family.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 834 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140231706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140231700
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.4 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (296 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Kerr was born in Edinburgh in 1956 and read Law at university. Having learned nothing as an undergraduate lawyer he stayed on as postgraduate and read Law and Philosophy, most of this German, which was when and where he first became interested in German twentieth century history and, in particular, the Nazis. Following university he worked as a copywriter at a number of advertising agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi, during which time he wrote no advertising slogans of any note. He spent most of his time in advertising researching an idea he'd had for a novel about a Berlin-based policeman, in 1936. And following several trips to Germany - and a great deal of walking around the mean streets of Berlin - his first novel, March Violets, was published in 1989 and introduced the world to Bernie Gunther.
"I loved Berlin before the wall came down; I'm pretty fond of the place now, but back then it was perhaps the most atmospheric city on earth. Having a dark, not to say black sense of humour myself, it's always been somewhere I feel very comfortable."
Having left advertising behind, Kerr worked for the London Evening Standard and produced two more novels featuring Bernie Gunther: The Pale Criminal (1990) and A German Requiem (1991). These were published as an omnibus edition, Berlin Noir in 1992.
Thinking he might like to write something else, he did and published a host of other novels before returning to Bernie Gunther after a gap of sixteen years, with The One from the Other (2007).
Says Kerr, "I never intended to leave such a large gap between Book 3 and Book 4; a lot of other stuff just got in the way; and I feel kind of lucky that people are still as interested in this guy as I am. If anything I'm more interested in him now than I was back in the day."
Two more novels followed, A Quiet Flame (2008) and If the Dead Rise Not (2009).
Field Gray (2010) is perhaps his most ambitious novel yet that features Bernie Gunther. Crossing a span of more than twenty years, it takes Bernie from Cuba, to New York, to Landsberg Prison in Germany where he vividly describes a story that covers his time in Paris, Toulouse, Minsk, Konigsberg, and his life as a German POW in Soviet Russia.
Kerr is already working on an eighth title in the series.
"I don't know how long I can keep doing them; I'll probably write one too many; but I don't feel that's happened yet."
As P.B.Kerr Kerr is also the author of the popular 'Children of the Lamp' series.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

182 of 186 people found the following review helpful By Bill Pen VINE VOICE on January 6, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been teaching detective fiction for a decade, and I have a book on the topic coming out from Macmillan this year. For my money (as I say in my book, "The Post-Colonial Detective"), the "Berlin Noir" trilogy is the finest work of hard-boiled detection ever published (based on distinguished writing, terrific plot, and fascinating characters and setting.) I've taught all three of these novels, and the students are crazy about them. I loaned them to a friend who teaches Nazi history, and he thought they were extremely accurate. If you can get hold of a map of pre-war Berlin (the Britannica has one that is adequate), you can follow along from street to street and building to building. Kerr's novel "A Philosophical Investigation" is future detection with the philosopher Wittgenstein as an important plot element, and virtual reality murders and serial killings and a woman detective. I thought my students would hate it, but they were crazy about it, too. Read Kerr, and spread the news.
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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on October 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
It's been awhile since I've read a mystery series that has grabbed me with the intensity of Phillip Kerr's Berlin trilogy. Right from the start, his writing reminds you of Raymond Chandler, though more vivid and descriptive. But Phillip Marlowe never had to worry about ending up in a concentration camp and that threat gives the first two novels in this series even more of an edge. Kerr creates a dead on accurate feel for what it was like to live in Nazi Germany before the outbreak of the war. Like all good historical fiction, famous names grace the pages as minor characters, including Goering and Renhard Heydrich. Their appearances give the books weight, but Kerr is careful not to overdo it. Fans of Caleb Carr's superb novel "The Alienist" in particular should love this series as well as anyone with an interest in Nazi Germany.
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Brad S. Leyhe on February 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
Phillip Kerr writes in the clearest of prose and is certainly one of the most gifted of our modern thriller/mystery writers. It is a sincere pleasure to read a well-written book, in this case a compilation of three books that seamlessly span the Nazi Germany years.
This volume captures his three Bernie Gunther novels, each a gem on its own. They are rich in the atomosphere of those strange, terrible years of Nazi Germany. These novels dare to set forth true police procedurals in the upside down world of a truly lawless society. Few of us can ever image how everyday life would be in a totalitarian society. These novels get the job done with a realistic, human hero. It is a pleasure to have a story unfold through the eyes of a rare, truly brave person with human frailities, not the more common super-hero that unfortunately litters most thrillers. It is thought-provoking to remember that many members of pre-war German society were ethical, moral people that felt outrage at a society with no rule of law. Further, we contemplate why there were not enough Bernie Gunther's left to opose and strive.
I hope that Phillip Kerr gives us another installment of this wonderful Bernie Gunther mini-series.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Michael T. Gibbons on November 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
I read this trilogy almost three years ago, yet it regularly comes to mind as one of the most enjoyable books I've read. As someone who reads primarily non-fiction or fiction by "great" writers, I ventured to read something different with Berlin Noir. Three years later, I am still searching for a comparable novel in this genre. Kerr's presentation matures throughout these novels. The hackneyed detective that he presents in March Violets, transforms slowly into a fuller, more entertaining character. Bernie Gunther loses his overuse of trite, detective-style similes by the end of the first story. By then, the reader is enveloped in a dark world of mystery and political barbarity. Kerr's portrait of Berlin is enticingly eerie. His characters are cut from typical molds, but are presented with enough freshness to keep the reader very interested. And using the different backdrops of pre-war, war-time, and post-war Germany, Kerr was able to modify the setting but maintain the same dark intensity.
I was sorry to finish this trilogy. It is fantastic escapist literature. I have read a couple of the J. Robert Janes novels, although neither the plots, nor the characters compare favorably to Berlin Noir.
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54 of 62 people found the following review helpful By John C Washburne on January 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
This trilogy is intriguing because I have several complaints about Kerr's style, yet I really did enjoy these books. First the complaints: 1) Way too many cliches. It's as if Kerr is trying to write a parody of thirties detective stories, except it isn't supposed to be funny. He's trying too hard to get the reader to see Bernie as a "seen too much", jaded character. 2) Kerr's description of Bernies sexual adventures is overdone and quite frankly the prose is laughable. It's like he took it straight from "Penthouse Forum".
On the other hand, I thought the storytelling was very good, and the plot lines were solid. And Kerr, to his credit, is capable of coming up with phrases that stick with you instantly.
An enjoyable and worthwhile read, but Alan Furst is a much better example of the genre.
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Berlin Noir: March Violets; The Pale Criminal; A German Requiem
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