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The Pale Criminal: A Bernie Gunther Novel Paperback – June 28, 2005

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The Pale Criminal: A Bernie Gunther Novel + A German Requiem: A Bernie Gunther Novel + March Violets: A Bernie Gunther Novel
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Editorial Reviews


"...a superb tour of Berlin on the edge of an abyss and a cynical, dashing leading man. —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Echoes of Raymond Chandler but better on his vivid and well-researched detail than the master." —Evening Standard

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

  • Series: Bernie Gunther (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 28, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142004154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142004159
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,151 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

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Bobbewig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
The Pale Criminal is the second book in Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy featuring Bernie Gunther, a tough-talking, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, cynical ex-cop, now private detective. The Pale Criminal takes place in 1938 Germany (mostly Berlin) and has Gunther working a case involving the murder of several teeange German girls. The Kripo (police) are unable to make progress in the case and Gunther is "requested" by Reinhard Heydrich, second in importance in the SS only to Heinrich Himmler, to temporarily rejoin the Kripo to take charge of the investigation. The interesting, though at times slow moving, plot reveals that some members of the Nazi party want to use the multiple murders to further incite anti-Jewish feelings. I found Kerr's description of pre-war Berlin and life in Nazi Germany to be engrossing, and it made me feel like I was right there experiencing the tension that permeated life in these times. The Pale Criminal is a good book that held my attention, and created enough interest to make me eager to read the third book in Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By manly-but-bookish on April 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Pale Criminal is the second book in Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy that he wrote back in the late '80s and early '90s. The trilogy features Bernie Gunther, a former cop who now makes a living as a private detective in Germany in the late 1930s. After writing these first three books, Kerr changed direction and showed his range by writing several stand-alone novels in the genres of science fiction, historical fiction, and thriller. In 2006 he returned to his beginnings and has since written four more books featuring Gunther.

Young girls are going missing and later turning up dead and brutalized in Berlin. None of the victims have been Jewish and all of them fit the Aryan stereotype tauted by Hitler's regime as the master race. Bernie Gunther, is forced back into working for the German police by the SS because the case surrounding the missing girls seems to be leading nowhere.

Gunther is an intriguing character. He's crass, politically incorrect, and has his vices. But underlying those characteristics is a man who will take any steps necessary in order to see that the guilty are punished, whether they're a Nazi or a Jew, and that the innocent are protected irregardless of who they are as well.

The plot is gritty and at times a little slow in unfolding. But it does an excellent job of creating the type of atmosphere I would imagine existed in Germany at that time in history. I enjoyed it but would not recommend it to those of a sensitive nature.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David Island on August 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is not funny. And it's not for the squeamish. Yes, there are a couple of laughs, a funny line or two due to Kerr's signature stylized (and a bit too frequent) similes, and an occasional warm passage, thanks to some good writing and a few compassionate characters. But, if you don't have the stomach for hideous crimes, body parts blown to smithereens, gruesome descriptions of girls being brutalized, and up close shooting people in the head and face, well, don't read it. It is not an enjoyable tale. It is, this "The Pale Criminal" by Philip Kerr, a grueling, ugly read, and I had to put it down often, simply because the story and descriptions of degradation were almost too much to endure. "Pale Criminal" is the middle story in the Bernie Gunther trilogy called, "Berlin Noir." It is certainly "noir", that's for sure.

Kerr is meticulous in keeping his focus on the Nazis, who are the true criminals in his shady world of police and detective work, and insistent on keeping the reader focused on wrongs done to Jews in 1938 Berlin, as things got worse and worse (for everyone, especially Jews), in the months leading up to Kristallnacht in November of that year.

"The Pale Criminal" is very well written and engrossing in its own repugnant, grisly way. And you must be able to accommodate Kerr's main detective character`s tendency to be a considerable amoral lawbreaker of his own - to say nothing of his rather conscience-free ability to actually murder bad guys. From the beginning of these modern day detective stories (perhaps the 1920s), it is quite amazing to me that all of the "heroes" are people (mainly men) of questionable mental stability.
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26 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. Sibley VINE VOICE on September 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
It is August 26, 1938. Arthur Nebe, Kripo head, meets Bernhard Gunther, private investigator, in the middle of the night. It seems that Heydrich thinks Bernie would be useful to him if he were back in Kripo.

Frau Lange is a new client. She wants Bernie to find out who is blackmailing her. To investigate the case he goes to stay in a clinic in Wannsee. Psychoanalysis has been banned, psychotherapy is the order of the day. Dr. Meyer, Bernie's physician, is a Jungian. Homosexuality is a criminal offense under the German Penal Code Section 175. Bernie's partner is murdered, the alleged blackmailer commits suicide, and Bernie is back at Kripo with a higher rank. He is working at Heydrich's behest to solve a serial murder case. He is now Kommissar Gunther.

There are four dead girls and another missing. When Bernie learns from the Kripo head of unoffficial mercy killings, he knows that things have already gotten worse than he imagined. The body of the fifth victim is found through an anonymous call to Kripo.

A suspect who through investigation becomes a nonsuspect turns up dead and a sixth girl, a fourteen year old attending a fee paying school, is missing. A schoolmate of the girl recalls a man wearing a uniform stopping his car near the school. Some of the men start to believe that one of their squad members has killed the nonsuspect. Gunther eliminates the man from the squad notwithstanding his protests that his actions are nothing compared to actions of higher officials.

In order to break open the case the squad decides to use another young girl as bait. Two SS men are responsible for the crimes. Bernhard Gunther solves the mystery just before Kristallnacht. The book is outstanding. The dark morally chaotic universe of National Socialism is portrayed admirably.
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