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

4.4 out of 5 stars 339 customer reviews

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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.)

From the Back Cover

Ex-policeman Bernie Gunther thought he'd seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin. But then he went freelance, and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture. And even after the war, amidst the decayed, imperial splendour of Vienna, Bernie uncovered a legacy that made the wartime atrocities look lily-white in comparison...
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 834 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (January 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140231706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140231700
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (339 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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