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VINE VOICEon March 21, 2010
Bernie Gunther, cynical gumshoe and knight errant, reprises his Philip Marlowe role as interface between the malevolent but pragmatic wing of Nazi Party functionaries, various tough guys and the clever but hazardous-to-be-personally-involved with (female) client. As before, many of the dramatis personnae are actual historical figures, the attention to historical detail is exemplary, the dialogue redolent of Raymond Chandler, the plot cunning and the denouement (this time set in pre-Castro Cuba during the Batista regimes' early end-game) is cleverly executed. In short, this is vintage Kerr and, as such, is well worth reading.

In the current story, initially set in pre-War Berlin (circa 1934) Gunther encounters a mix of real and fictional characters, including American "businessman" (well, actually he's a gangster) Max Reles, Nazi Police General von Helldorf, Gestapo agent Weinberger (nope, not a crypto-Jew, despite the suggestive name, a fact that assumes importance in the story), corrupt American Olympic Committee functionary Avery Brundage, several SS and KRIPO members and Noreen Eisner, femme semi-fatale and Bernie's romantic interest. This time, Gunther, while working as Adlon Hotel carpet-creeper, encounters the vivacious Noreen, a Jewish journalist working on a newspaper article which will demonstrate ongoing Nazi anti-Jewish behavior (akin to exposing corruption in the police; an exercise in exposing the obvious). Why? She plans to use the article as a vehicle in which the murder of a Jewish boxer will convince one-and-all that there are dire machinations between the AOC representative (Brundage), Max Reles and the German Olympic Committee Reichssportführer, Hans von Tschammer und Osten (who also serves as leader of the Deutscher Reichsbund für Leibesübungen and, not to be overlooked, is an SA Gruppenführer) all of which should convince the American government to cancel US participation in the Games. This all occurs, of course, with the connivance of a bewildering array of complicit agents on both sides of the Atlantic.

One of the outstanding features of the Gunther series is its ability to acquaint current readers with some of the lesser-known but thoroughly nasty characters who have generally escaped historical scrutiny, Avery Brundage being a prime example of the type. This cynical, corrupt, sanctimonious and immensely wealthy scion of American nobility, inflicted his insipid presence on the Olympic scene right up through the 1972 Munich/Black September debacle. Under the guise of impartial sportsmanship, Brundage lined his pockets with public funds and undermined the integrity of the institution he was serving. Helldorf, who literally lost his head in 1944 when he fell afoul of his own plotting, is an almost Hollywood style Nazi, coming as he did from a "noble" family. Naturally, he was fond of indulging in all the debaucheries favored by most delicately decadent members of the elite (and so richly caricaturized by so many lesser authors) is another chap whose curriculum vitae should be known to all lovers of the noir genre. Reles, a Jewish thug, on the other hand, is a fictional character, but he is a stand-in for the sort of people Brundage and von Helldorf held near and dear.

So, having been introduced to the German side of the "If the Dead Rise Not" coin in the first half of the novel, what comes next? Readers of the series will recall that Bernie, late of KRIPO, the SS, the Abwehr and the US CIC amongst others, was implicated in the murders of two women in the previous story in the series, "A Quiet Flame". With the aid of the "Old Comrades" (ODESSA) and the CIA (Operation Paperclip), Bernie arrived in Argentina hoping to lead a shy and retiring life but (of course!) becomes involved in another dire plot. In the second half of "Dead", he surfaces in 1954 Cuba, where he again encounters Reles, this time as a member of the American "expat" criminal community which includes the entire pantheon of American Jewish gangsters (e.g., the Lansky brothers, Nathan Rothman) and select members of the Mafia (Joe Stassi, Santo Trafficante, etc, etc). He also meets the nefarious Lieutenant Quevedo, who has all the attributes of the sophisticated Nazis Bernie is accustomed to dealing with. He also encounters the mordant and occasionally helpful Captain Sanchez, analogue of the occasionally helpful Nazis Bernie is accustomed to dealing with illustrating that human nature has certain enduring refrains, regardless of which side of the ocean you live on. Bernie also, not surprisingly, again encounters Noreen, who resides at Ernest Hemingway's Cuban farm. Thus, we have the Cuban dramatis personnae.

As before, the book hews to the Chandler-Hammett-Ellroy style. This is not a criticism; its a compliment. So is the liberal use of Chandler-style dialogue. Here are a couple of examples: "As you can see, he might have been a Jew...Although from the rest of him, you wouldn't say he looks like a Jew at all", to which Bernie replies, "The strangest people are these days", or this lapidary Bernie-ism, "These days, a considerate German is someone who doesn't knock at your door early in the morning in case you think it's the Gestapo." Bernie says, "I'm not a Nazi. I'm a German. And a German is different from a Nazi. A German is a man who manages to overcome his worst prejudices. A Nazi is a man who turns them into laws." Kerr even borrows a lick from the Robert Towne "Chinatown" script: a body found floating in fresh water with salt water in its lungs ("Salt water bad for glass"). The meticulous attention to historical detail also continues from previous books and reflects diligent and comprehensive research by the author.

"Dead" is a really first-rank detective thriller. The sparkling dialogue, deeply researched history, cleverly contrived story lines and Kerr's unique ability to avoid the sort of self-parody that many modern mystery series writers eventually fall prey to command attention and respect. Perhaps in future installments, hoping there are some, Kerr will concentrate more on Bernie during the pre-War and WW-II years. Regardless, any and all these books are well worth reading.
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Time for a real review instead of comments on Kindle pricing?

This, the sixth book in Philip Kerr's remarkable Bernie Gunther series, shows that the author hasn't lost his knack for combining classic noir mysteries (complete with a hard-nosed investigator who cracks wise at the drop of a fedora) with a more thoughtful narrative that delves into the harsh realities of the ordinary individual face-to-face with some of the harshest political regimes of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. It isn't Kerr's best, but it's a fascinating story that manages to bookend the improbable odyssey of Gunther, who readers first met in the mid-1930s as an already-world weary and worldly wise private investigator in Nazi Berlin and last saw leaving behind the new Peronist dictatorship in Argentina with a new name that he hopes will keep him safe from myriad enemies that he has inadvertently left in his wake.

The book starts in Berlin in 1934, when Bernie has left the police department (the philosophy of jumping before he gets pushed out as a Social Democrat and thus politically undesirable) in the wake of the Nazi takeover and finds himself working as the house detective at Berlin's famous Adlon Hotel. That doesn't keep him out of political hot water, however; he finds that two dead bodies, one in one of the Adlon's best rooms and the other fished out of the Landwehr Canal with its lungs full of seawater, appear to be linked by politics -- specifically, by politics surrounding the upcoming Berlin Olympics and the efforts by some groups to boycott the games in view of the Nazi regime's anti-Jewish policies. The first 2/3 or so of the book revolves around this set of mysteries; then the reader is abruptly transported to Cuba circa 1953, where Bernie is now making a living, even more cynical about life and people than he had been two decades previously. Suddenly, figures from the past appear, disrupting that effort at a peaceful existence and his hopes of returning to Germany, and he finds himself embroiled not only in past mysteries but a present plot, involving Mafia figures like the Lansky brothers and the opposition by one Fidel Castro and his supporters to the Bautista regime...

The first part of the book is more satisfying and I felt that Kerr could have simply wrapped up his story at that point; the temptation to simultaneously address some of the loose threads (or invent them and then wrap them up) while at the same time answer the urgent question of what happened to Bernie after he had to leave Argentina behind in A Quiet Flame: A Novel (Bernie Gunther Novels) must have been too great to resist, but it doesn't necessarily make the story any stronger, and it does make it more difficult for newer readers to jump into the series at this point. Still, the impeccable writing, Bernie's character, complete with flashes of wit and unexpected glimpses of a more complex and even thoughtful and erudite individual beneath the Dick Tracy-esque exterior, make this a great read, and Kerr nails the atmosphere of both pre-war Berlin and pre-Castro Cuba. Even knowing what happened to Bernie Gunther during the intervening years, thanks to the other books in this series, didn't spoil the suspense of the first part, and the ending to this one has me hoping that somehow Kerr will find a way to carve out some kind of resolution for the hapless Bernie Gunther -- in other words, hoping for a seventh book in the series.

If you haven't read any of the others in this series, this is NOT the place to start. There's a good trilogy that begins with Kerr's first book to feature Bernie Gunther, Berlin Noir: March Violets; The Pale Criminal; A German Requiem, and that is just as good. This book functions as a prequel to March Violets and a sequel to the events in A Quiet Flame, and is probably the only one in the series that can't be read independently, at least in my opinion. That's OK, because the fans of the series will enjoy this the most -- for me, as for them, it's likely to be at least 4.5 stars and possibly 5; for others, 4 stars. I'm going with the former rating in part to offset the one-star reviews by people protesting the Kindle rating without having read the book. If the reviews end up being more balanced in a few months, when more readers have chimed in, I'll re-post this review with a 4-star rating to reflect the gap between new readers and existing fans. Regardless, this is a great series, and fans of authors like Alan Furst will love it.
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on April 24, 2010
Bernie Gunther has been very entertaining - the life he lives, created by Kerr, takes us from the trenches of WW1 now to 1950's Cuba. I have read each entry and appreciate the hard-boiled character, the history mash-ups, and the underlying mysteries. Unfortunately, this effort does not measure up to the previous works. The plot was slow and predictable. The first half of the book in 1934 Germany moved at a glacier-like pace and the whole gangster angle was actually boring. Still the history was accurate and Bernie's Zelig-like appearances with leading figures of the day continues to intrigue. I am now torn between desiring another one or letting Bernie retire after a life well lived.
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on May 5, 2016
If the Dead Rise Not is either the third or the sixth novel in Philip Kerr’s series about the indomitable Berlin detective Bernie Gunther. The ranking depends on whether you take into account the three much earlier books in the Berlin Noir series that introduced the voluble and sarcastic German investigator.

From Hitler’s Germany to pre-Castro Cuba

If the Dead Rise Not opens in Berlin in 1934. Bernie Gunther has left the Berlin criminal police, the KRIPO, because he can’t stomach the politics of the force under the Nazis — or, for that matter, of the country as a whole. Adolf Hitler seized control of the government a year earlier, and his violence-prone minions are clamping down on Jews, Gypsies, and dissidents alike. To make ends meet, Bernie is now working as a house detective at the Adlon, the city’s finest luxury hotel. The owners tolerate his outspoken anti-Nazi sentiments and his constant sarcasm. In pursuing an investigation at the behest of Frau Adlon, who owns the hotel with her husband, Bernie becomes involved with a beautiful American newspaper reporter and a ruthless American gangster. As his investigation unfolds, putting Bernie at ever-greater peril, the action suddenly shifts to Havana in 1954. There, under the shadow of Fulgencio Batista’s brutal regime and the growing insurgency led by Fidel Castro, Bernie (predictably) encounters both Americans once again.

The picture Kerr paints of both Berlin and Havana is richly detailed and firmly grounded in historical fact. Though the plot is complex and challenging, the style is less worthy of praise.

A problematic writing style

Five years ago, I reviewed the fourth novel in the series, a book entitled The One from the Other. As I sat down to write this piece, I took a look at that earlier review. This, in part, is what I wrote in commenting on Kerr’s style:

"For example, here’s how Bernie describes his meeting with one incidental character: 'Frau Klingerhoffer . . . was working on a leg of lamb like a mechanic going after a set of rusty spark plugs with a wrench and a rubber hammer. She didn’t stop eating for a moment. Not even when I bowed and said hello. She probably wouldn’t have stopped if the lamb had let out a bleat and inquired where Mary was.'

"Cute, eh? So’s this: 'There was something in his face I didn’t like. Mostly it was just his face.'

"But this stuff is non-stop in The One from the Other. There are paragraphs in which Kerr uses as many as four similes and metaphors to describe a character or a scene. It gets a little old."

Funny thing: I was going to write this review making precisely the same points. I’d even highlighted several similar passages in If the Dead Rise Not to be quoted in this review! Philip Kerr gets an A for creative imagination but a D for readability. It’s difficult to swallow all this exaggerated language without stopping to sigh with exasperation at every other paragraph.

About the author

Philip Kerr‘s first novel featuring Bernie Gunther, March Violets, was published in 1989, quickly followed by The Pale Criminal and A German Requiem. The One From the Other, the first of nine subsequent Bernie Gunther tales, didn’t appear until 2006. Kerr has also written more than two dozen other books.
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VINE VOICEon June 18, 2013
There are many similarities between _If the Dead Rise Not_ and its immeadiate predecessor A Quiet Flame: A Bernie Gunther Novel, which is concerning - perhaps Kerr is tired of his character or perhaps his creative well is running dry. Yet there are many elements of the "old" Bernie Gunther (from Berlin Noir: March Violets; The Pale Criminal; A German Requiem)- the wisecracking, cynical, hard-bitten character that is uniquely noir-ish that I enjoyed and keep me interested. I am therefore conflicted in how to rate the book, so I split the difference.

On one hand, Kerr is formulaic: in _If the Dead Rise Not_, the book is split between pre-war Nazi Germany and Latin America after the war; a past investigation in Berlin impacts and is related to an investigation years later; Gunther meets and falls in love with a beautiful and willful woman against his better judgement; in his investigation in Latin America, Gunther finds himself in a very tight spot where he is about to be executed by being thrown overboard with cement galoshes; while in Cuba, he meets or has brushes with important "historical" figures. All of this, of course is hauntingly familiar to _A Quiet Flame_, a story that alternates between pre-war Berlin and Argentina, a murder investigation in the past is finally solved in Buenos Aires, where Gunther meets and falls in love with a willful and beauitiful woman (against his better judgement), before he lands in hot water, his life threatened by Peron cronies who want to throw him out of an airplane.

On the other hand, the Bernie Gunther in _If the Dead Rise Not_ has much more snappy dialogue, cynical comebacks and a jaded view of the world than in either _A Quiet Flame_ or The One from the Other: A Bernie Gunther Novel. I missed his wise-cracking dry humor, and was delighted to see it and see so much of it here. Kerr also does a remarkable job of showing the struggle Gunther (and other characters) have with their identity, especially in Nazi Germany on the cusp of the Nuermberg "racial purity" laws. Frequently the contrast between being "German" and being a "Nazi" is drawn, often through witticisms like "A German is a man who manages to overcome his worst prejudices. A Nazi is a man who turns them into laws." The eerie similarity between Nazi Germany of the 1930s with Argentina in the late 1940s and Cuba in the 1950s is brilliantly and subtly underscored as well. As Kerr writes, "In a society founded upon lies, the discovery of the truth will beocme more and more important." This is true of governments and societies as much as it is of individuals - another element that Kerr shows with Gunther.

One of the most difficult things for an author to do in a serial such as the Bernie Gunther mysteries is to keep things fresh. While Gunther (of course) solves the mystery and settles old scores, the last few books have had Gunther living a lie; a case could be made that the entire series is based on the moral conflict our intrepid hero faces and the lies he tells others and the lies he tells himself in order to survive. Towards these ends, Kerr keeps things fresh as some truths about Gunther's past unbeknownst to him (and to readers) is revealed. That he is able to still suprise and provide some depth to his character is reassuring, given the number of similar plot devices used in the last two books.

I remain a fan of both Kerr and the series, and I will continue to read them in spite of the strong similarities between this book and its predecessor. I assume this is a one-off. As long as Kerr can continue to suprise and give depth to his character and write dialogue and character description with a noir flavor, I'll keep coming back.
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on August 10, 2015
I read all of the Bernie Gunther books and this is a very good one. It starts in Berlin well before the 1936 Olympics and, as usual, the author demonstrates his excellent knowledge of the place and time and the nuances of both. The story has many twists and turns, and without giving away the story, one can only say that they are plausible and make for a real mystery. Much of the story has the Hotel Adlon as its background, and this itself is a major plus. Two thirds through the book the scene shifts almost 20 years forward to the Havana of 1954. This is unfortunate, because the the first two thirds could well have been lengthened for an even better story of a mystery in Berlin.
The last third is yet another murder mystery but with the main protagonists now 20 years older. It is essential reading for Bernie Gunther followers and of course, it could have ended very differently, for example, with Gunther not going to Germany but staying in Cuba, or clearing his CIA record, and/or moving to the US. Mystery stories from the US East Coast of th 1950's might have followed...
I would have given this book five stars but for the excessive moralizing and the lengthy monologues which sometimes gave the impression of being just fillers. The protagonist's choppy speech was also a minus. I realize that he was meant to portray a hard-boiled detective, but one would have thought that even such a character would have progressed to more complex sentences and to using less slang.
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on September 25, 2013
Well I'm up to book 6 or 7 in the Gunther series, and I do enjoy them. Mainly I like the detailed historical context in which fully realized characters live and move. Kerr makes history come alive in such a compelling and naturalistic way. There's no sense that one is reading contemporary figures 'read into' history. Rather the characters are realistic, one can identify with them, yet they belong to their own time and place completely. Kerr's novels really place the reader in the time and place in which the story unfolds.

But they are a bit too long. "If The Dead Rise Not" was really two novels in one. Though Kerr makes expert use of the two main stories, and they provide an important link in Gunther's pre-war backstory, the book is too long. It makes finishing reading one of the installments a chore rather than a joy. I'll probably finish the series, but I don't do so sequentially, as I usually do. I always need a break after a Gunther novel, before 'taking on' another.
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VINE VOICEon March 22, 2010
This was my first introduction to both Philip Kerr and his sardonic and world weary detective, Bernie Gunther and I am delighted with my discovery.
This is historical crime fiction of the highest order, set in Berlin in 1934 just as the Nazi's were starting to promote anti-Semitic views and attitudes and where the wrong thing said in the wrong place can result in serious repercussions. Gunther is a hotel detective and a death of one resident and the theft from another brings him into a world of corruption, gangsters and mistrust, all set around the planned Berlin Olympics. Gunther follows the link, encouraged by an attractive American journalist and finds himself in more trouble then even he can handle.....
The author then takes a brave and interesting step my moving the story forward 20 years to Havana under Batista and some of the old protagonists find themselves meeting up again, and things are still not what they seem......
An interesting thriller with a very atmospheric setting, traumatic at times as the story is set at the time where the Jews are being persecuted but before the 'final solution' is put in place, it gives 1934 Germany, and the story, a very dark background and the author really does bring it to life. Likewise when the story moves to Cuba the author captures the feel of the time very well indeed.
A great story, and a complex and involving led character. I have read reviews elsewhere that suggest this is not the best story to feature Gunther, if they are correct then I have a few treats on the way as I catch up with the series. Excellent stuff indeed.
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VINE VOICEon August 13, 2011
In the fifth book in the series, we saw Bernie Gunther leaving Argentina under threat of death. Having read a few sentences about If the Dead Rise Not and knowing that part of the action takes place in Cuba, I expected this book to mimic it's predecessor and feature multiple flashbacks from Havana to Berlin.

Well, I was wrong to anticipate that. Kerr likes to tinker with his storytelling, and so the reader finds himself in pre-Hitler Berlin for the first two thirds of the book, and in Cuba for the remainder, sans flashbacks. This is quite a shift from A Quiet Flame, but Kerr makes it work just as well.

The majority of this book revolves around the year before Berlin stages the 1936 Olympics. As I've said before, Kerr has an ear for the bits of history that are just a bit too facile and can crack them open to give the reader unexpected new perspectives on past and current times. Here, we find that Jews are being illegally employed to work the most risky parts of building the projects for the Olympics. One man dies in the effort just as a wealthy man dies in the Hotel Adlon, where Bernie is the 'house dick.' Both murders involve coverups, and both are connected despite appearances, and Kerr takes us through completely believable journeys under Berlin as well as out of the city before we begin to understand how big the conspiracy is, and who is behind it. When Bernie finally puts it all together, he is within a few minutes of dying as the price for his knowledge, and then something happens.

At that point, the book pivots immediately to 1954 Havana, where we find a much older Bernie, who is having to accept the gradual fading of his youth and strength. Bernie meets a love interest from the first part of the book whom he has not seen for 19 years, and becomes involved with her, figures sympathetic to the rebels, members of the Batista regime, and top people of the American Mafia who are moving into Havana in a big way. Then Bernie is reacquainted with the man who nearly killed him 19 years earlier, who offers Bernie a job, but then is killed before Bernie barely starts. Needless to say, the Mafia figures don't like this at all and hire Bernie to solve the crime, while he is also fending off the rebels and the government.

It all makes for a fine mess and a lot of plot shifts, including two big ones right at the end. One of them is a bit too obvious, but the other is quite effective. On the whole, a very satisfying read. I really enjoy the way each of the fourth, fifth, and sixth books in this series is told in its own unique way. I also really enjoyed the backfill of the Bernie story in this book. In the series opener, Bernie was already a private eye.

How did he get the money to start? What did he do before he was a PI? I never thought to question that, but in the Berlin section of this book, we get quite a bit of the story. This really shows how Kerr has made out of Bernie something like an origami box in two ways. The most obvious is the witty historical observations that make us question what we thought we knew about recent history. But the other is how Kerr continues to unfold the Bernie story, telling us more and more about a character he created over 20 years ago and abandoned for well over a decade.

I loved this book and was sad to come to the end. Fortunately, there is still one more book to go as of 2011.
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VINE VOICEon February 1, 2015
So far, one of my two least favorite Gunther books along with "A Quiet Flame". Similarly, both books are about Gunther's post WW2 experiences in the Americas. I find he is at his best when he writes about significant historical Nazi related events, like the Katyn Forest massacre in "A Man Without Breath" and the murder of Reich Protector Heidrich in "Prague Fatale", my two favorite books in the series. In the latter two he actually does some clever sleuthing and solves some crimes rather than just stumbling on the solutions. In the first two, partially set in Germany and partially set in Argentina and Cuba, there is less real Nazi related history to work with and the locales similarly are less interesting to me. The setting of Nazi Germany is what makes this series stand out and I feel that Kerr is having to stretch it to come up with plots in his later novels.
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