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The One from the Other: A Bernie Gunther Novel Paperback – February 3, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Set in 1949, Kerr's excellent fourth novel to feature Bernhard Gunther (after 1991's German Requiem) finds the erstwhile PI managing a failing hotel about a mile from the site of the Dachau concentration camp. After the death of his wife, Kirsten, in a mental hospital, he calls it quits and opens a private detective agency. A series of missing-Nazi cases sets Bernie on a course that becomes increasingly complicated until he's beaten to a near pulp, had his little finger chopped off and is sent to a mysterious private estate to recover. There he's drawn into a nightmare involving the American occupation and the CIA, and soon his life hangs in the balance. Kerr's stylish noir writing makes every page a joy to read ("The little mouth tightened into a smile that was all lips and no teeth, like a newly stitched scar"). Perfectly plotted, the book builds to a satisfying conclusion. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
After a 15-year hiatus during which he's taken readers from the Himalayan snows to Enlightenment England, Kerr returns to the war-torn Germany of his Berlin Noir trilogy with a fourth case for sardonic detective Bernhard Gunther. It is 1949, and fed up with trying to run a hotel next door to Dachau, Gunther hangs out his shingle and in walks a tall blond with marriage on her mind and a missing husband on her conscience. Gunther sets out to track down the renowned sadist, one of many SS spiders able to slip through the Allies' dragnet and find refuge in the Americas. Of course, nothing is quite as it seems, and our knight's detached weltschmerz gets a fresh coat of tarnish. As with his earlier Gunther books, Kerr follows Raymond Chandler's playbook closely, adapting his trademark metaphors with all the subtlety of a goose-step and the restraint of Hermann Goring at a knackwurst-eating contest, to say nothing of the relish. Still, the knockabout action should please most fans of classic hard-boiled mystery and historical espionage. David Wright
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The reviewer who observed that Bernie has lost his snap may be right, but only to a point. Kerr has aged Bernie masterfully, reflecting the horrors, compromises and deprivations of the war and its aftermath in the older man. Of course, he's somewhat subdued, but he's as determined, resourceful and decent as ever. The plot is excellent but read this book for character. You won't be disappointed. In fact, I think you'll find yourself thinking about Bernie--and his creator--for days afterward.
Note to P. Kerr: Well done. Thank you.
Now, I am a historian and I am German. And from that point of view I have another point of criticism.
Having grown up in Germany (even though not in the post-war years) Bernie's cultural references always seem odd. He seems to know things that would have been unknown to a regular German police officer even after 1945. E.g, Bernie compares something he has seen to an elephant with enormous ears and pink color. That's a clear reference to Dumbo, a movie that wasn't shown in Germany until 1951. And there are more of these little things that - for me - take away from Bernie's credibility as a character. They simply tear me away from the story and make me shake my head a couple of times before I manage to get back into the story.
Bernie is a believable hard-boiled gumshoe. But an American one, I'm afraid.
And a personal pet peeve - some of the German words used simply don't make any sense. That is something that - with a bit of care - could have been avoided.
And mark also how well "One From the Other", the sequel to Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy, hangs together. I picked up Kerr's latest Bernie Gunther novel soon after reading the first three novels. Despite what I consider a flawed plot, One From the Other was an entertaining read.
The first three Gunther novels took place in Germany (usually Berlin) in 1936, 1938, and 1947. They pretty much tracked the rise and fall of the Third Reich. One From the Other takes us into 1949. Germany is still a defeated nation and a divided one as the Cold War continues to get colder. Gunther's wife is in the hospital after suffering a complete nervous breakdown and Bernie is managing his late father-in law's run down hotel. The hotel is located a stone's throw from Dachau's notorious concentration camp and it is no surprise to find that visitors are few and far between. A chance meeting with a U.S. Army officer at the hotel sets off a chain of events that plunges Bernie back into the detective business. Before long, Bernie is swimming through a deadly sea of ex-Nazis fleeing persecution and those secret organizations created to help them escape.
The strong point of all four Bernie Gunther books has been Kerr's excellent portrayal of Bernie Gunther. From the outset Gunther has been the quintessential hardboiled detective (Kerr obviously has great affection for the genre) while at the same time coming across as a believable and all-too human character. One From the Other is no different. Here we find Gunther aging none too gracefully. He is not as spry or as tough as he used to be and he knows it. He is something of a defeated man in a defeated country.
The weak point of "The One From the Other" is its plot. The plots of the first three Gunther struck me as all being well within the realm of possibility, even as Gunther worked his way (at cross purposes) with Nazi higher ups such as Himmler and Heydrich. The plot here just did not fall within those parameters for me. Others may disagree but the one plot device (which cannot be revealed in a review) that propels this story just struck me as being a bit beyond the pale. The plot was not so far fetched as to ruin the story but it did leave me shaking my head a bit.
Despite my quibble over the plot device I found "The One From The Other" to be an enjoyable read. As noted, Kerr is a master at characterization and anyone who has read the earlier Gunther novels should be happy (as I was) to see how Gunther's life is going in post-war Germany.
Four stars for the writing; three and one half stars for the plot. Recommended. L. Fleisig