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81 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Care Rides Behind the Horseman
The Bernie Gunther series continues in, "A Quiet Flame". Kerr's books are most strongly redolent of Raymond Chandler (tone, dialogue, characters)and now of James Elroy in its macabre violence (quite similar to "Black Dahlia"). In this installment, Detective Bernie Gunther is on-the-run in Peronist Argentina.

As with the previous books, the ambiance is set by...
Published on March 27, 2009 by Keith A. Comess

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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Edges on being a caricature of the series
I have liked all of the Bernie Gunther series. I think that the "Berlin Noir" trilogy is superb fiction, and I liked "The One From The Other". But this one feels as though Kerr were rushed or bored with the series, and this one almost descends into a caricature of the others. At times Gunther's wise-cracking asides turn ludicrous as one follows the other in a manic...
Published on July 31, 2009 by Dave


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81 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Care Rides Behind the Horseman, March 27, 2009
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The Bernie Gunther series continues in, "A Quiet Flame". Kerr's books are most strongly redolent of Raymond Chandler (tone, dialogue, characters)and now of James Elroy in its macabre violence (quite similar to "Black Dahlia"). In this installment, Detective Bernie Gunther is on-the-run in Peronist Argentina.

As with the previous books, the ambiance is set by the corrupt, brutal, ruthless and ideologically-driven detritus of WW-II era Germany in the form of former Nazi Party functionaries, SS, security apparatus operatives and their victims. Gunther, is now fleeing Allied "justice" (the result of a frame-up). He arrives in Peronist Argentina, itself a microcosm of Nazism in the post-war period in the company of Eichmann and another former Nazi. The justice Gunther is avoiding is a cynical and opportunist type, a form of self-service best embodied in the so-called, "Operation Paperclip", a CIA sponsored program which spirited numerous Nazi war criminals to safety.

After being recruited by an urbane Argentine Secret Police colonel, Gunther encounters the usual byzantine twists-and-turns in his investigation of a brutal child murder and a disappearance, observing mordantly on all aspects of human behavior at every opportunity. His state of continued high dudgeon, inexhaustible supply of snappy repartee, sang froid and paladin spirit continue from previous books. Interestingly, Gunther has shed his tone of moral relativism and is now more stridently anti-Nazi and less equivocally accommodating than in previous adventures.

As is often the case with historical fiction, it is hard to separate factual matters from the author's imagination. This remains true in the present book. The various Nazis (the entire rogue's gallery of war criminals appears herein) use an abundance of invented dialogue, but their imagined thoughts seem quite congruent with reports of their actual behavior (e.g., the banal, bureaucratic temperament of the historical Eichmann meshes nicely with his fictional counterpart in this book). The romantic subplot is a throw-away, as has been the case with the previous Gunther novels.

The main plot concerns the doings of ex-Nazis in Argentina, which appears complicit in their schemes. The proto-fascist Peron government was enamored of the Nazis. It has been widely reported that between 5,000-8,000 war criminals found refuge there, usually with the aid of the US government, sometimes the Red Cross, the Vatican, sympathetic South American regimes and a "ratline" escape network. They found an especially warm welcome and refuge in Argentina (Paraguay, too).

Juan Peron was no friend of the Jews, an issue Gunther immediately confronts. His investigation of "Directive 11" (a secret edict signed into being by the Peron government in 1938 which served to stop Jews from coming to Argentina and also allowed for their repatriation to Germany, knowing their fate) is the crux of the book.

Of course, the US and Cuba did the same thing as Peronist Argentina when the hapless passengers on the "St Louis" were returned to be killed in Germany. So did many other countries. To cite but one other instance, Switzerland was the motive force behind the "J" designation on passports and rejected virtually all refugees, requiring financial "donations" from resident Swiss Jews to support the few allowed entry. Argentina, however, seems to have been near the vanguard of rejection, as anti-Jewish prejudices received official sanction there in Directive 11. It should be noted that the existence of Directive 11 has never been confirmed by the Argentine government, either then or now. Plenty of circumstantial evidence exists in support of the idea that this edict was signed and enforced. Some speculate on the existence of a "Directive 12", one which paralleled the "Final Solution". So does Bernie Gunther.

The book has been well received by critics (see WSJ, March 17, 2009, for example). As I've written before, the plots are more compelling than Furst's, the dialogue is worthy of Chandler, the history is accurate and the use of historical fiction to create the dialogue is convincing. The book meshes nicely with the previous entries in the series and should be read as part of the whole. On the other hand, it can be read and enjoyed independently.

In summary, I thought this book was interesting, well-written and thoroughly engrossing. Of all the current noir writers, I find Kerr the most compelling. I highly recommend this book.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb post WWII investigative thriller, March 20, 2009
In 1950 former Berlin police detective Bernie Gunther is stunned when he is accused of war crimes as he loathed the Nazis. Knowing the atmosphere is one of shoot first, he obtains haven in Argentina alongside many other Germans, almost all Nazis.

In Buenos Aires he begins to start his new life when local cop Colonel Montalban asks him to investigate the brutal murder of teenage Grete Wohlauf. The police officer points out to the German expatriate that the current homicide shares much in common with a cold case Gunther failed to solve in 1932 Germany. Gunther takes the cross Atlantic connection seriously even though the two homicides he investigated occurred almost two decades apart as much of the scum of German have come to reside in Peron's paradise. When another teen goes missing, Gunther agrees to slyly question his fellow expatriates in exchange for medical treatment for thyroid cancer. Meanwhile Anna Yagubsky begs Gunther to find out what happened to her missing Jewish aunt and uncle.

This is a superb post WWII investigative thriller that contains an ethical lead character who is assumed to be an amoral racist due to guilt by association; as everyone believes war criminal fled to Argentina. Thus fans receive a unique intriguing look at the Nazi haven under Peron's rule. The whodunit is well written while the missing persons' case adds to the sense of being in Buenos Aires in 1950 as Phillip Kerr continues to explore the Nazis this time after their defeat (see The Berlin Noir trilogy).

Harriet Klausner
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Saga Continues, March 28, 2009
By 
Brian Baker (Santa Clarita, CA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Finding himself in 1950 Argentina following the previous book of the series, hard-boiled German detective Bernie Gunther is hip-deep in ex-Nazis and Peronistas as he tries to locate a missing girl who just may be a victim of a horrific serial-killer whose crimes reach all the way back to pre-Reich Germany.

Rich in settings and characterizations, Kerr's work continues to uniquely delve into the world of war-era Nazis in a fascinating and captivating way. In this installment, the post-war accommodation of ex-Nazis in South America is examined in all its brutal glory. Bernie Gunther is a compelling protagonist, a man with a strong moral code who finds himself immersed in a world of immorality beyond his own control, and must depend on his own skills and toughness to survive.

I strongly recommend this 5-star work. I'm also looking forward to the next Gunther novel, "If the Dead Rise Not", in which (according to the Amazon UK site) Gunther's back in 1934 Germany. At the end of "Flame", I was hard-pressed to imagine how Gunther was going to keep moving forward chronologically. At least for the moment, it seems he's not.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Edges on being a caricature of the series, July 31, 2009
By 
Dave "Dave" (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
I have liked all of the Bernie Gunther series. I think that the "Berlin Noir" trilogy is superb fiction, and I liked "The One From The Other". But this one feels as though Kerr were rushed or bored with the series, and this one almost descends into a caricature of the others. At times Gunther's wise-cracking asides turn ludicrous as one follows the other in a manic stream.

None of Kerr's other work has been nearly as successful as this series (though "Hitler's Peace" was very good) and this one feels as though Kerr just felt a need to keep the series going for the money. I have no problem with that, but more effort and care should have been taken.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Somewhere, Raymond Chandler is smiling., March 22, 2009
Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series was originally just one stand alone book. Then he wrote another. Then one more. That became the Berlin Noir trilogy. It remained so, just those 3 books, for 15 years.

Fortunately Kerr decided to bring Bernie back. This latest book is the 5th in the series and Kerr is writing more. This one opens as some Nazi war criminals are fleeing to Argentina. The year is 1950 and former Berlin homicide cop Bernie Gunther is among them. He's pretending to be a doctor.

Upon his arrival in Juan Peron's dictatorship Bernie decides to come clean, admitting his true identity. He is immediately drawn into a murder investigation which has eerie parallels with an old failed investigation from Germany in 1932.

Bernie is charged with questioning fugitive Nazis as he seeks clues to try to solve these cases. There's the requisite beautiful woman in distress and a never-ending stream of wise cracks. Kerr (and Bernie) are in fine form here.

Somewhere, Raymond Chandler must be smiling.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars not enough research, August 17, 2009
Kerr is one of my favourite authors.
Quite Flame has a gripping plot and he builds up a layered story.
The characters in this novel are well drawn 3 dimensional human beings.
The big flaw in this book is that Kerr groundwork on Argentina and Buenos Aires in the fifties is not well researched.
The dark and unsettling atmosphere within this novel seems to be unreal and extracted from the author imagination.
Argentina according to historians was living in the fifties,through a period of prosperity and peace (except some violence in the 1955 revolution. Crime was very low, cinemas were packed with children waiting to see the last Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin films in one of the more than twenty cinemas in the area. That was all before Peron started squandering the Central Bank gold.
Then the geographical mistakes which I happend to pick up some.
Bernie feeling the sea breeze and looking at seagulls when leaving Retiro station that is not possible near the River Plate; Indians from Bolivia and Paraguay in the railway station. I was told from commuters in the fifties that they've never seen any indian from any country, as unusual as meeting mexicans indians in Union Station they said.
The street Irigoyen is name after president Hipolito Yrigoyen and not Luis Irigoyen.
Historicals mitakes, like the flights of the death in 1950, when that was in the seventies, when there was real violence and many crimes were commited in the war against terrorism.
The idea of jewish concentration camps in Argentina seems a bit farfetch to me but I hven't read Iñaki Goñi's book and I'm sure he must have done a lot of research on that matter.
Hard to explain is the fact that Peron had and has a lot of supporters among the huge jewish community here and who really helped to overthrow him were catholics groups together with the navy (after his backers burned down several churches)
This blunders notwithstanding I'm eagerly waiting for his new book and I hope to see a better outline of Cuba in the fifties.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Phillip Ker, A Great Crime Noir Writeer and Master of the Outrageous Metaphor, April 7, 2009
By 
James Barton Phelps (Menlo Park, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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Bernie Günther is - or -was - a Berlin detective. He's had quite a career - German Infantry in World War I, distinguished career as a principal detective in the Berlin Police during the 1920s and 30s, a principled anti-Nazi before the Reichstag fire and then a quiet career in the SD - The German intelligence agency. Probably did some bad things he doesn't want to talk about; but, as he says, "I never took an innocent life". Having been in the SS and having spent pent several years in a Russian concentration camp after the war we first meet him in this book when he's disembarking in Buenos Aires in 1950 and he's just one of the many wanted Germans - mostly SS - given refuge by the Peron government. They come under assumed names - Adolph Eichman as Ricardo Klement, Herbert Kuhlman as Pedro Geller - brought in with Red Cross passports obtained through the underground agency in Europe which was engaged in shipping wanted Nazis to their refuge in Argentina. Turns out there are quite a nimbler of them, some hidden, some prosperous but all under false names, plus a German colony which is self-sufficient and which holds them in silence and protected by Peron.

Gunther is well known as one of the best in the world at finding missing persons, so he's soon employed by the Argentine SIDE (equivalent to the CIA or OGPU) to locate the daughter of one of the most prominent German-Argentinean industrialists. He's got to ask a lot of questions of a lot of people so his cover for asking questions of the German underground is that he will be able to get them a visa free Argentine passport under an assumed name so they can travel freely anyplace in the world. Furthermore, as a sideline to this operation he can seek to locate on his own the killer of a teen age girl who has been found horribly mutilated in Argentina in the same fashion as one Anita Swartz was found equally horribly mutilated in a Berlin park in 1932. It was Gunther's case at the time and he never found the perp; but, now in Argentina with an identical killing, he wonders if the same killer had not fled Germany for Argentina and is one of the SS refugees. Good guess.

So, after opening in Argentina with Gunther employed again as a detective, the story switches back and forth - to Germany and the conditions there in the tumultuous period leading to the first Chancellorship of Adolf Hitler in 1934, then to Argentina in 1950, and back again to Germany - and so forth.

I had never read anything by Philip Carr before, but from the number of titles on the overleaf I gather Bernie Gunther is a pretty well known quantity among the crime noir followers; and, frankly, I liked the writing and liked the character - kind of.

Gunther tells his story in the first person. He's a smart, wisecracking detective who can escape from more life threatening situations than Houdini - including being blindfolded, shackled, handcuffed and thrown into the back of a plane with seven other people who are being tossed over the side, one by one, at 5,000 feet over the River Plate by his erstwhile friends in SIDE.

Carr can get more plot and action in two pages than most crime tellers can in a long chapter. He's a master at the outrageous metaphor. I got a little tired of his breathless writing, but he's good. He's really good; and I intend to read more of him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Despicable Conspiracies!, April 2, 2009
By 
Bernie Gunther is at it again in this 5th Bernie Gunther series novel! This famous Berlin homicide detective is investigating a 1950 case in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that's intimately connected to one large and several connected cases in 1932 Berlin. The cases in both countries are ripe with terror and information that could end Bernie's career and life. Bernie, a sleuth well-respected by his Berlin peers, is asked to investigate the murder of a young girl found with her internal pelvic organs surgically and carefully removed. It's a vicious death, commonly referred to as a "lust" murder and it's not the first one Bernie's heard about. In fact, there's an amazing amount of child prostitution, abortion and these connected murders happening, a sign to Germany's up and coming Nazi party that Germany is in need of Adolph Hitler's political victory.

In fact, Bernie seems throughout the novel to go out of his way to demonstrate how deeply he despises the Nazi party tactics of brutality and death against Jews, Communists, Gypsies, homosexuals and disabled men and women, even before Hitler takes power as the leader of Germany. That seems like an amazingly large agenda for the Nazi Party but it looks like Bernie's wishes aren't going to happen. He is repeatedly warned that in the coming days his attitude could make or break his police career. A few very violent and devastatingly intimidating experiences in the course of his investigative work foreshadow what Germany will be like in the not too distant future. When Bernie gets very close to solving the mystery, he is removed from the case and thinks it's time for him to consider other career options.

But years later in 1950 Argentina, Bernie's in a different situation altogether. He's been forced to join the Nazi exiles in Peron's Argentina as a purported SS officer criminal whom the Allies would love to find, bring to trial and punish. That scenario, however, seems highly unlikely, although Bernie hints at unspeakable acts he was forced to commit as a member of the SS squad. However, his fame has followed him and he is asked by President Peron and his wife, the notorious Evita, to find out who committed a similar murder to that of the Berlin case and to find a missing young girl. Bernie knows the cases are linked but doesn't realize the extent of the obstacles that will be set to thwart his search and the complications arising from other requests to find missing persons.

A Quiet Flame never lags for thrilling and chilling suspense that grips the reader's attention steadily and consistently. Philip Kerr is a writer who knows precisely how to build a case, provide subplots that are minor yet just as powerfully plotted as the main conflict, and present characters with enough depth of personality that is as much of a mystery as the events under investigation. It's a rare writer who can keep this balancing act moving and vibrantly credible. Philip Kerr does all so very, very well.

This is a novel you absolutely must not miss and will want to share with family and friends for sure! Superb!!!

Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on April 2,2009
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flashback Good, Main Story Dull, February 5, 2010
I have read the 4 preceding books in this series, and by far, the best is the original trilogy "Berlin Noir." This book takes up immediately following One for the Other, when Bernie Gunther must escape from Germany after being framed. While this was an enjoyable read, it is definitely the weakest book in the series.

It is actually 2 stories in one, as it moves back and forth between Berlin in 1932 and "present day" Argentina of 1950. The Berlin flashback is the most interesting, and really, it could be a stand alone story and I wish it was. Kerr really shines when he is on familiar ground, but appears to fall short as soon as he leaves his base. It is because of the 1932 flashback that I gave the book 3 stars. Otherwise, I would give this a one star rating.

The Argentina segment is dull, predictable, poorly researched, and downright silly. It is obvious that Kerr has never set foot in Buenos Aires, or if he did, then he kept his eyes shut. There is no feel for the city whatsoever or the time period. He throws around Spanish names, but that's the extent of it. And other than a cartoonish description of the Perons, there is no feel for the time period. I half expected Bernie to pull out a cell phone or look something up on the Internet.

This could have been an exciting story, if Kerr had chosen to set his eyes on what was really happening in 1950 Buenos Aires. Ex-pat Nazis, the Cold War brewing, spies, intrigue, etc. Instead, he chose the same tired formula of Bernie being swept off his feet by a beautiful woman and getting himself into a mess. As soon as Anna Yugubsky appeared, I sighed and could predict the story almost down to the last detail. In addition, Anna is such an unlikeable character--stupid, arrogant, clueless, naive, selfish and self centered. And these attributes continue to grow during the course of the story.

Warning--spoilers ahead...

Anna is a Russian Jew and asks Bernie to help her locate missing relatives, without payment. So you already know where this is going. Of course they have been snatched away because they are Jews, and the ending is going to be the status quo. And of course it is a deep dark secret, and of course Bernie will uncover it and get his ass whipped. And of course he will once again fall for a silly woman who gets him into trouble and couldn't care less.

I do like the character of Bernie Gunther, but in this book, his wise-cracking becomes a little tiring and almost like a caricature. It even borders on stupidity in many instances, as do some of the actions/things he says throughout the book. It's as if he is looking to get himself into a fight or prison. One would assume that after all he's been through, that he might have emerged somewhat wiser and more mature. And since he also had to flee his homeland, and is quite fortunate to have found refuge in Argentina along with a good job and high standing, that he would leave well enough alone. But Bernie turns out to be as dumb as Anna, and just doesn't know when to give it a rest.

I found it annoying that Bernie would be so dumb as to immediately jump into this, just because the woman was beautiful. And even after he gets into trouble for doing so, and is bailed out by a powerful friend, he goes right back to it. What, does the man have a wish to be on the run for the rest of his life. Sorry, but the plot line became ludicrous and boring.

Another thing was the secret directive that Argentina had against Jews, and in this book, they were even operating their own death camps. Pleeze...is this ridiculous or what? Was Kerr so void of ideas that he had to recreate Nazi Germany in South America? As I said, this location and time period were so rich for fresh stories, but Kerr decided to play out a tired and ridiculous plot instead.

Argentina may have had a directive for restricting Jewish immigration during the 1930s, but then, most countries did except if the Jews were wealthy. We didn't see the US opening its doors to hordes of persecuted refugees, now did we. But the fact remains that many Jews did escape to Argentina during the first half of the 20th century, and many moved there from Europe during the 1930s. That is a fact. And Jews supported Peron. It was the Catholics that he antagonized. I have many relatives in Argentina, and they are all anti-Peronistas (yes, the party exists today even though Peron is dead). Some of them are politically active Catholics, and I've read a great deal of the history and heard first hand stories of this.

The idea that a Jewish concentration camp existed is extremely far fetched, and has never been proven. Not even by the author who Kerr has relied on for all of this information (note, one source). I highly doubt that such a thing was real. About 30,000 people disappeared in Argentina during the 1970s, but they were political opponents of the military dictatorship. There is no support for the supposed concentration/death camp that exterminated Jews in the 1940s, and it was just downright ludicrous.

The story would have been greatly improved minus Anna Yagubsky and if Kerr had just concentrated on the missing girl that Bernie was supposed to be looking for, and with a totally different twist. Nazis exterminating Jews is a well worn storyline, and it seemed that the author just fell back on that because he couldn't think of anything else.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes ths series into a whole new direction, wonderfully, August 13, 2011
By 
Jeff (Northern California) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: A Quiet Flame: A Bernie Gunther Novel (Paperback)
A Quiet Flame is the fifth book in the Bernie Gunther series and is in many respects, a breakout book for the series. In it, Kerr has taken what he started in the previous book, tying together flashbacks to pre-war Berlin with Bernie's continuing adventures after the war, and really making that the centerpiece of the plot. In this book, it involves looking for a missing girl in Peronist Argentina, whose disappearance mirrors an unsolved crime from Bernie's days as a detective in Berlin right before Hitler came to power. The book shifts often between the two settings, and Kerr is the kind of writer who makes those shifts happen in a way that enhances the plot. Most writers don't do this anywhere near as well as Kerr.

Kerr wants us to believe that there was a vast movement of Nazis to Argentina, and that the Peron's were completely complicit in making this happen and protecting them after they came to Argentina. The writing and the plot certainly makes that believable. Where this eventually takes Bernie is to a horrific crime that he wants us to believe happened and was hushed up, not to mention to some of the most sado-masochistic villains you're apt to run into ever.

Perhaps more than any book previous in the series, A Quiet Flame allows the wise cracking Gunther to make a set of observations on history we thought we knew, but didn't. Kerr has a great ear for the facile bits of history we've been slipped and the cracks where just the right nudge makes you see the world through different eyes. One of the other reviewers has compared this book to James Ellroy's Black Dahlia because of the murdered girl in it. I rather think the comparison is apt because Ellroy is the other writer in noir today writing a counter-punctual history of the 1950's and 60's that turns our view of that history inside out. Ellroy does it with a full on assault of our sensibilities, and I love those books. With Kerr, we see a writer do the same thing, but with more subtlety. Kerr has a fine touch, and this book is as good as the first in the series, March Violets, which I thought was pitch perfect. The minute I finished this book, I reached for the next in the series.

I bet you will too.
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A Quiet Flame: A Bernie Gunther Novel
A Quiet Flame: A Bernie Gunther Novel by Philip Kerr (Paperback - February 23, 2010)
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