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Prussian Blue (A Bernie Gunther Novel) Hardcover – April 4, 2017
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Praise for Prussian Blue
“[B]risk and agile...Gunther is one of crime fiction’s most gratifyingly melancholy creations, and in 'Prussian Blue' we watch him match wits with the officialdom of two Germanys, pre- and postwar.”—The Washington Post
“Bernie Gunther—sly, subversive, sardonic, and occasionally hilarious—is one of the greatest anti-heroes ever written, and as always he lights up this tough and unflinching novel. We're in good hands here.”—Lee Child
“Once again Kerr leads us through the facts of history and the vagaries of human nature. His Bernie Gunther thinks he’s seen it all. But he hasn’t, and luckily, neither have we.”—Tom Hanks
"In Prussian Blue, Philip Kerr once more shows himself one of the greatest master story-tellers in English. The narrative is swift and adept, and so well-grounded in the history and custom of the period that the reader is totally immersed.”—Alan Furst
“Kerr once again brilliantly uses a whodunit to bring to horrifying life the Nazi regime’s corruption and brutality.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“In this skillfully plotted thriller, Kerr punctures the present with the painful past. Fans of the series won’t be disappointed.”—Library Journal
Praise for Philip Kerr
“Kerr vividly captures the excruciating moral ambiguity of Bernie’s position, driving home the point that cynicism is the only sane reaction for a man on the wrong side of history.”—Booklist
“The intricacies of the plot, partly based on Maugham’s history as a British spy in charge of a team of secret agents, make this one of Kerr’s best technical efforts. But it’s the characterization of Maugham and the sound of his voice...that makes this novel memorable.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Readers who love hard-boiled heroes fell for Bernie Gunther back when he was a Berlin cop talking tough to Nazi thugs (March Violets, 1989), and we loved him just as much when he was forced to become an SS soldier on the Eastern Front (Field Gray, 2011). And yet, those whose own dark core runs deep may well love the postwar Bernie most of all, the Bernie whose cynicism has slowly morphed into black despair, like whiskey gradually eating its way through a defenseless liver....The Other Side of Silence is one of the best in a sterling series.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Kerr carefully develops his plot, sense of place, and characterizations, enabling readers to imagine what it must have been like to have lived in a postwar morass of political and moral ambiguity. This is more than a crime or espionage novel; it’s a marvelous, hard-boiled political read.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Intricate enough to satisfy puzzle-minded readers...right out of the Agatha Christie playbook.”—The Washington Post
“Blackmail, murder, deception, sexual shenanigans of every sort, and an undercurrent of black humor pervade Philip Kerr’s 11th novel featuring the unsinkable German detective Bernie Gunther.”—Pittsburg Post Gazette
About the Author
Philip Kerr is the author of the widely acclaimed Bernie Gunther novels, including The Other Side of Silence, The Lady From Zagreb, A Man Without Breath, Prague Fatale,and Field Gray, all New York Times bestsellers. Field Gray and The Lady From Zagreb were both finalists for Edgar Award for Best Novel. Kerr has also been a finalist for the Shamus Award and the winner of the British Crime Writers’ Association Ellis Peters Historical Award. Under the name P. B. Kerr, he is the author of the much-loved young adult series Children of the Lamp. He lives in London.
Top customer reviews
In Kerr's newest book, "Prussian Blue", Gunther is placed in 1956 (with flashbacks to the late 1930's) and he is on the run from GDR official Erich Mielke (Kerr often uses real people, mixed in with the fictional), who wants him to commit a murder for him. It's a rather convoluted murder and is associated with the previous novel, "The Other Side of Silence", in the series. (You don't need to have read "Other Side of Silence" to understand this book.) Now, Gunther is no fan of the GDR - the living standards aren't what Bernie is used to and today's Stasi offical is often yesterday's Gestapo bully-boy. Bernie's trying to avoid both.
The book also sets Bernie in April 1939 when he is ordered by Reinhard Heydrich to investigate a possible murder at Hitler's retreat at Berchesgarden. (Curiously, Philip Kerr writes about the use of Pervitin, which was a kind of meth developed by the German pharmaceutical firm Temmler, and widely distributed in Germany to ramp up energy of the military and industrial workers. It was the subject of a new work of non-fiction, "Blitzed", by Norman Ohler)
As the book continues, the two cases as well as some others, come together to make a complete story. As usual, Philip Kerr's plotting is meticulous and brings his readers to another excellent story. And we'll wait for next year's book in the series!
So the work keeps improving. Kerr's use of plain English in Bernie's inner monologue is a great fit. Hitler is the Leader, not the Fuhrer, His book was My Struggle, not Mein Kampf. These are small things but really makes it seem that you're listening to Gunther's thoughts, no cute break into German at awkward parts.
With this you get a sense of the normalization of terror. The view into the workings of the Nazi hierarchy are stunning. The casual brutality in the service of personal power isn't described better anywhere. Kerr's research certainly pays off again.
So I'll reread this one along with the rest while awaiting the next chapter.
One measure of the Nazis’ true vileness was not how they treated their enemies, but how they treated their friends, in this case small-town Bavarian folk, Hitler’s base and earliest supporters..
Two story lines intertwine here, and Kerr gradually draws them together.
At the front edge of the timeline, 1956. Gunther has been living quietly on the French Riviera, but the East German Stasi have tracked him down. Gunther has some history with the Stasi general, Erich Mielke, dating back to Weimar Germany. Mielke orders him to assassinate a female British spy, or else. Gunther sees through his promise to arrange a happy landing for him, a return to West Germany with a new identity. He knows Mielke will kill him after the job is done. He flees instead. Mielke’s goons chase him across France, where Gunther is now a wanted man, desperately trying to make it across the German border.
The other is in April 1939, before Poland is invaded. Heydrich, head of the SD, orders Gunther, a top Kripo detective in Berlin, to Hitler’s Bavarian redoubt to solve a murder. The Fuehrer wasn’t around and hasn’t been told about it. But to assure his security the sniper who blew off a civil engineer’s head outside the Berghof, the Fuehrer’s baronial mountain residence, must be apprehended.
Gunther finds himself working directly for Martin Bormann - Hitler’s deputy chief of staff and a power unto himself in Bavaria, the seat of Hitler’s power and, Gunther learns, where much of the Nazi administration actually resides. Hitler hates Berlin.
He finds no dearth of suspects. While Bavaria is enthusiastically pro-Nazi, and its small-town mountain dwellers far more amenable to Hitler’s appeals to flag and family than, say, Berlin’s cynical and cosmopolitan sophisticates, many locals have come to despise the Nazis. Why? Because they’ve seized homes, extorting low prices by threatening the current owners with Dachau, and then built palaces for themselves.
Half the local population is addicted to the methamphetamine the Nazis hand out like candy to keep workers going on the double and triple work shifts their fanatical building projects - and fortifications for the war everyone knows is coming - require. There are brothels of foreign whores for the workers. There are secret abortions and treatments for STDs. People who push back disappear, are sent to Dachau or are openly killed. Nazi projects swim in kickbacks, and Bormann’s at the center of it all. .
We get a truly deep look at Nazi thuggishness - those who hide it beneath a veneer of civility, and those who don’t bother hiding it at all, like Bormann, who, Gunther observes, looks like Al Capone.
Gunther does find a tiny island of decency even among the Nazis, in a Nazi architect’s widow who is one of the only people Hitler can talk design with, and in Bormann’s own brother, his complete opposite in character. Both are historical, as are most of the characters in the story.
Gunther faces a dilemma he’s faced before - investigating a murder among murderers, for a regime that sanctions murder. And we get to see how all those around him participate in, or cope with, this life. Hitler loves animals and forbids hunting near his holdings, turning the locals, who have hunted there for centuries, into poachers. Hitler is a night owl and so when he’s around, everyone else stays up all night too. Hitler never takes his coat off, and so the temperature is kept on the cool side. And on and on. His acolytes are building him an enormous and expensive tea house as a birthday present. Hitler hates smoking and those few daring enough to smoke at all are furtive about it.
Elegantly plotted, the two story lines slowly converge through a character central to both, and through a locale for the climactic moments of each. And Gunther sees a greater tie-in: the Stasi are the Gestapo’s heirs. They use ten times as many internal spies per capita in East Germany as the Gestapo did. They torture and execute people. They hunt opponents relentlessly. They send people to camps. Gunther watches one of his Stasi trackers casually shoot a cat just for kicks, and he remembers the Nazis doing the same thing - because Hitler loved birds.
I also liked this book for the close-up look at Bormann, who in fiction and non-fiction both tends to be nearly invisible, certainly far less prominent than Hitler’s other underlings like Goering, Himmler or Goebbels.