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A Quiet Flame: A Bernie Gunther Novel Paperback – February 23, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. At the start of Kerr's stellar fifth Bernie Gunther novel (after The One from the Other), the former Berlin homicide detective seeks exile in Argentina in 1950, along with others connected to the Nazi past (one of his fellow ship passengers is Adolf Eichmann). A few weeks after Gunther arrives in Buenos Aires, a local policeman, Colonel Montalbán, asks his help in solving the savage murder of 15-year-old Grete Wohlauf. Montalbán has noticed similarities between this crime and two unsolved murders Gunther investigated in 1932 Germany. Another teenage girl's disappearance heightens the urgency of the inquiry. In exchange for free medical treatment for his just diagnosed thyroid cancer, Gunther agrees to subtly grill members of the large German community. A secret he stumbles on soon places his life in jeopardy. Kerr, who's demonstrated his versatility with high-quality entries in other genres, cleverly and plausibly grafts history onto a fast-paced thriller plot. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
A later fictional treatment
Philip Kerr’s excellent 2008 novel, A Quiet Flame, takes up this theme again. Set in Argentina in 1950, with flashbacks to the backstory in Germany in 1932-33, Kerr’s Berlin detective Bernie Gunther, finds himself caught up in the wave of former SS officers who were still flooding into Argentina. One of his shipmates is Eichmann. Once in Buenos Aires, Gunther is befriended by the head of Argentine military intelligence, who explains that Gunther is one of his heroes for his extraordinary detective work in Berlin in the early 1930s. To Gunther’s amazement, the hero-worshipping spy chief takes him directly to meet Juan Peron in the presidential palace. There, he is pressed into service to locate a missing teenage girl, the daughter of a wealthy expatriate German who is somehow important to Peron. The case, which turns out to be vastly more complicated and dangerous than Gunther had been warned, leads him to the doorstep of dozens of fugitive Nazis. Among those whose names are well known to this day are Eichmann, Mengele, and Otto Skorzeny, the SS officer who rescued Benito Mussolini from Italian partisans.
To reveal the astonishing facts that come to light in the course of Bernie Gunther’s investigation would spoil the novel for future readers. Suffice it to say that I was taken aback by what he learns about Argentine history, about Juan Peron, and about the Nazis who populate the novel. The story is grounded in historical fact. Both in Argentina and in the flashbacks to Germany, Gunther encounters many historical figures, from Josef Goebbels to Evita Peron, and his portrayals of them ring true. As the author explains, much of his novel is based on The Real Odessa, a book by the Argentine researcher Uki Goni that brought to light much of what we know about Nazis in Argentina.
About the author
British novelist Philip Kerr has written dozens of novels, including twelve that feature the brilliant detective Bernie Gunther as well as a number of books for children.
The local secret police recruits him, on the surface for a case of a murder which looks like the repetition of a case that Gunther had been unable to solve in Berlin in 1932. The real reason is something else, possibly related to the police wish to know more about all the German fugitives... In addition, he accepts a 'pro bono' job as a private eye for a woman who he falls for. Of course the cases are all interrelated. And there are the Peróns angling for Nazi money in Swiss banks...
My problem with Kerr is that I like his plots and his suspense build up, but I tend to lose interest about two thirds through, when the path towards solutions brings too many twists and turns and complexities. I don't believe the story any more and drop out...
There is a general problem when fictional tales involve historical people. The story about the Peróns and their Nazi entanglements looks possible, but I would rather read a historical account about it. The story about an Argentine concentration camp for Jews looks possible, but Kerr himself says in the epilogue that no proof has been found. Too close to conspiracy theories for my taste.
His protagonist Bernie Gunter is a totally believable portrait of a likeable, decent, hard hitting character with a long past.
Kerrs books are an in depth three dimensional study of a decent man in a very indecent world.
A flawed, embittered, wise cracking hard drinking hard smoking and gritty character who has taken some of the harder edges of life on the chin and still stands firm for his beliefs.
Read These Books, they will take you to a and time place described in an authentic tactile style that leaves you wanting more.
This is Noir at it's very best ... No This is not just Noir, this is literature.