Prussian Blue new arrival (A Bernie wholesale Gunther Novel) online

Prussian Blue new arrival (A Bernie wholesale Gunther Novel) online

Prussian Blue new arrival (A Bernie wholesale Gunther Novel) online

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Product Description

When his cover is blown, former Berlin bull and unwilling SS officer Bernie Gunther must re-enter a cat-and-mouse game that continues to shadow his life a decade after Germany''s defeat in World War 2...

The French Riviera, 1956: Bernie''s old and dangerous adversary Erich Mielke, deputy head of the East German Stasi, has turned up in Nice--and he''s not on holiday. Mielke is calling in a debt and wants Bernie to travel to London to poison a female agent they''ve both had dealings with. But Bernie isn''t keen on assassinating anyone. In an attempt to dodge his Stasi handler--former Kripo comrade Friedrich Korsch--Bernie bolts for the German border. Traveling by night and hiding by day, he has plenty of time to recall the last case he and Korsch worked together...

Obersalzberg, Germany, 1939: A low-level bureaucrat has been found dead at Hitler''s mountaintop retreat in Bavaria. Bernie and Korsch have one week to find the killer before the leader of the Third Reich arrives to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. Bernie knows it would mean disaster if Hitler discovers a shocking murder has been committed on the terrace of his own home. But Obersalzberg is also home to an elite Nazi community, meaning an even bigger disaster for Bernie if his investigation takes aim at one of the party''s higher-ups...

1939 and 1956: two different eras about to converge in an explosion Bernie Gunther will never forget.

Review

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
 
More Praise for Philip Kerr and the Bernie Gunther Novels

“A brilliantly innovative thriller writer.”—Salman Rushdie
 
“Philip Kerr is the only bona fide heir to Raymond Chandler.”—Salon.com
 
“In terms of narrative, plot, pace and characterization, Kerr’s in a league with John le Carré.”— The Washington Post
 
“Every time we’re afraid we’ve seen the last of Bernie Gunther, Philip Kerr comes through with another unnerving adventure for his morally conflicted hero.”—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Just as youth is wasted on the young, history is wasted on historians. It ought to be the exclusive property of novelists—but only if they are as clever and knowledgeable as Philip Kerr.”— Chicago Tribune
 
“Kerr quantum leaps the limitations of genre fiction. Most thrillers insult your intelligence; his assault your ignorance.”— Esquire

“A richly satisfying mystery, one that evokes the noir sensibilities of Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald while breaking important new ground of its own.”— Los Angeles Times
 
“Part of the allure of these novels is that Bernie is such an interesting creation, a Chandleresque knight errant caught in insane historical surroundings. Bernie walks down streets so mean that nobody can stay alive and remain truly clean.”—John Powers,  Fresh Air (NPR)

About the Author

Philip Kerr was the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Bernie Gunther novels, three of which— Field GrayThe Lady from Zagreb, and  Prussian Blue—were finalists for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. Kerr also won several Shamus Awards and the British Crime Writers’ Association Ellis Peters Award for Historical Crime Fiction. Just before his death in 2018, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. As P.B. Kerr, he was the author of the much-loved young adult fantasy series Children of the Lamp.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

one

October 1956

It was the end of the season and most of the hotels on the Riviera, including the Grand H™tel Cap Ferrat, where I worked, were already closed for the winter. Not that winter meant much in that part of the world. Not like in Berlin, where winter is more a rite of passage than a season: you''re not a true Berliner until you''ve survived the bitter experience of an interminable Prussian winter; that famous dancing bear you see on the city''s coat of arms is just trying to keep himself warm.

The Hotel Ruhl was normally one of the last hotels in Nice to close because it had a casino and people like to gamble whatever the weather. Maybe they should have opened a casino in the nearby Hotel Negresco-which the Ruhl resembled, except that the Negresco was closed and looked as if it might stay that way the following year. Some said they were going to turn it into apartments but the Negresco concierge-who was an acquaintance of mine, and a fearful snob-said the place had been sold to the daughter of a Breton butcher, and he wasn''t usually wrong about these things. He was off to Bern for the winter and probably wouldn''t be back. I was going to miss him but as I parked my car and crossed the Promenade des Anglais to the Hotel Ruhl I really wasn''t thinking about that. Perhaps it was the cold night air and the barman''s surplus ice cubes in the gutter but instead I was thinking about Germany. Or perhaps it was the sight of the two crew-cut golems standing outside the hotel''s grand Mediterranean entrance, eating ice cream cones and wearing thick East German suits of the kind that are mass-produced like tractor parts and shovels. Just seeing those two thugs ought to have put me on my guard but I had something important on my mind; I was looking forward to meeting my wife, Elisabeth, who, out of the blue, had sent me a letter inviting me to dinner. We were separated, and she was living back in Berlin, but Elisabeth''s handwritten letter-she had beautiful SŸtterlin handwriting (banned by the Nazis)-spoke of her having come into a bit of money, which just might have explained how she could afford to be back on the Riviera and staying at the Ruhl, which is almost as expensive as the Angleterre or the Westminster. Either way I was looking forward to seeing her again with the blind faith of one who hoped reconciliation was on the cards. I''d already planned the short but graceful speech of forgiveness I was going to make. How much I missed her and thought we could still make a go of it-that kind of thing. Of course, a part of me was also braced for the possibility she might be there to tell me she''d met someone else and wanted a divorce. Still, it seemed like a lot of trouble to go to-it wasn''t easy to travel from Berlin these days.

The hotel restaurant was on the top floor in one of the corner cupolas. It was perhaps the best in Nice, designed by Charles Dalmas. Certainly it was the most expensive. I hadn''t ever eaten there but I''d heard the food was excellent and I was looking forward to my dinner. The m‰itre d'' sidestepped his way across the beautiful Belle Epoque room, met me at the bookings lectern, and found my wife''s name on the page. I was already glancing over his shoulder, searching the tables anxiously for Elisabeth and not finding her there yet, checking my watch and realizing that I was perhaps a little early. I wasn''t really listening to the m‰itre d'' as he informed me that my host had arrived, and I was halfway across the marble floor when I saw I was being ushered to a quiet corner table where a squat, tough-looking man was already working on a very large lobster and a bottle of white Burgundy. Recognizing him immediately, I turned on my heel only to find my exit blocked by two more apes who looked as if they might have climbed in through the open window, off one of the many palm trees on the Promenade.

"Don''t leave yet," one of them said quietly in thick, Leipzig-accented German. "The comrade-general wouldn''t like it."

For a moment I stood my ground, wondering if I could risk making a run for the door. But the two men, cut from the same crude mold as the two golems I''d seen by the hotel entrance, were more than a match for me.

"That''s right," added the other. "So you''d best sit down like a good boy and avoid making a scene."

"Gunther," said a voice behind me, also speaking German. "Bernhard Gunther. Come over here and sit down, you old fascist. Don''t be afraid." He laughed. "I''m not going to shoot you. It''s a public place." I suppose he assumed that German speakers were at a premium in the Hotel Ruhl and he probably wouldn''t have been wrong. "What could possibly happen to you in here? Besides, the food is excellent and the wine more so."

I turned again and took another look at the man who remained seated and was still applying himself to the lobster with his cracker and a pick, like a plumber changing the washer on a tap. He was wearing a better suit than his men-a blue pinstripe, tailor-made-and a patterned silk tie that could only have been bought in France. A tie like that would have cost a week''s wages in the GDR and probably earned you a lot of awkward questions at the local police station, as would the large gold watch that flashed on his wrist like a miniature lighthouse as he gouged at the flesh of the lobster, which was the same color as the more abundant flesh of his powerful hands. His hair was still dark on top but cut so short against the sides of his wrecking ball of a head it looked like a priest''s black zucchetto. He''d put on some weight since last I''d seen him, and he hadn''t even started on the new potatoes, the mayonnaise, the asparagus tips, the salade nioise, sweet cucumber pickles, and a plate of dark chocolate arranged on the table in front of him. With his boxer''s physique he reminded me strongly of Martin Bormann, Hitler''s deputy chief of staff; he was certainly every bit as dangerous.

I sat down, poured myself a glass of white wine, and tossed my cigarette case onto the table in front of me.

"General Erich Mielke," I said. "What an unexpected pleasure."

"I''m sorry about bringing you here under false pretenses. But I knew you wouldn''t have come if I''d said it was I who was buying dinner."

"Is she all right? Elisabeth? Just tell me that and then I''ll listen to whatever you have to say, General."

"Yes, she''s fine."

"I take it she''s not actually here in Nice."

"No, she''s not. I''m sorry about that. But you''ll be glad to know that she was most reluctant to write that letter. I had to explain that the alternative would have been so much more painful, for you at least. So please don''t hold that letter against her. She wrote it for the best of reasons." Mielke lifted an arm and snapped his fingers at the waiter. "Have something to eat. Have some wine. I drink very little myself but I''m told this is the best. Anything you like. I insist. The Ministry of State Security is paying. Only, please don''t smoke. I hate the smell of cigarettes, especially when I''m eating."

"I''m not hungry, thanks."

"Of course you are. You''re a Berliner. We don''t have to be hungry to eat. The war taught us to eat when there''s food on the table."

"Well, there''s plenty of food on this table. Are we expecting anyone else? The Red Army, perhaps?"

"I like to see lots of food when I''m eating, even if I don''t eat any of it. It''s not just a man''s stomach that needs filling. It''s his senses, too."

I picked up the bottle and inspected the label.

"Corton-Charlemagne. I approve. Nice to see that an old communist like you can still appreciate a few of the finer things in life, General. This wine must be the most expensive on the list."

"I do, and it most certainly is."

I drained the glass and poured myself another. It was excellent.

The waiter approached nervously, as if he''d already felt the edge of Mielke''s tongue.

"We''ll have two juicy steaks," said Mielke, speaking good French-the result, I imagined, of his two years spent in a French prison camp before and during the war. "No, better still, we''ll have the Chateaubriand. And make it very bloody."

The waiter went away.

"Is it just steak you prefer that way?" I said. "Or everything else as well?"

"Still got that sense of humor, Gunther. It beats me how you''ve stayed alive for this long."

"The French are a little more tolerant of these things than they are in what you laughingly call the Democratic Republic of Germany. Tell me, General, when is the communist government going to dissolve the people and elect another?"

"The people?" Mielke laughed, and breaking off from his lobster for a moment, placed a piece of chocolate into his mouth, almost as if it were a matter of indifference what he was eating just as long as it was something not easily obtained in the GDR. "They rarely know what''s best for them. Nearly fourteen million Germans voted for Hitler in March 1932, making the Nazis the largest party in the Reichstag. Do you honestly believe they had a clue what was best for them? No, of course not. Nobody did. All the people care about is a regular pay packet, cigarettes, and beer."

"I expect that''s why twenty thousand East German refugees were crossing into the Federal Republic every month-at least until you imposed your so-called special regime with its restricted zone and your protective strip. They were in search of better beer and cigarettes and perhaps the chance to complain a little without fear of the consequences."

"Who was it said that none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who believe they are free?"

"It was Goethe. And you misquote him. He said that none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."

"In my book, they are one and the same."

"That would be the one book you''ve read, then."

"You''re a romantic fool. I forget that about you, sometimes. Look, Gunther, most people''s idea of freedom is to write something rude on a lavatory wall. My own belief is that the people are lazy and prefer to leave the business of government to the government. However, it''s important that the people don''t place too great a burden on those in charge of things. Hence, my presence here in France. Generally speaking I prefer to go hunting. But I often come here around this time of year to get away from my responsibilities. I like to play a little baccarat."

"That''s a high-risk game. But then you always were a gambler."

"You want to know the really great thing about gambling here?" He grinned. "Most of the time, I lose. If there were still such decadent things as casinos in the GDR I''m afraid the croupiers would always make sure I won. Winning is only fun if you can lose. I used to go to the one in Baden-Baden but the last time I was there I was recognized and couldn''t go again. So now I come to Nice. Or sometimes Le Touquet. But I prefer Nice. The weather is a little more reliable here than on the Atlantic coast."

"Somehow I don''t believe that''s all you''re here for."

"You''re right."

"So what the hell do you want?"

"You remember that business a few months back, with Somerset Maugham and our mutual friends Harold Hennig and Anne French. You almost managed to screw up a good operation there."

Mielke was referring to a Stasi plot to discredit Roger Hollis, the deputy director of MI5-the British domestic counterintelligence and security agency. The real plan had been to leave Hollis smelling of roses after the bogus Stasi plot was revealed.

"It was very good of you to tie up that loose end for us," said Mielke. "It was you who killed Hennig, wasn''t it?"

I didn''t answer but we both knew this was true; I''d shot Harold Hennig dead in the house Anne French had been renting in Villefranche and done my very best to frame her for it. Since then the French police had asked me all sorts of questions about her, but that was all I knew. As far as I was aware, Anne French remained safely back in England.

"Well, for the sake of argument, let''s just say it was you," said Mielke. He finished the piece of chocolate he was eating, forked some pickled cucumber into his mouth, and then swallowed a mouthful of white Burgundy, all of which persuaded me that his taste buds were every bit as corrupt as his politics and morals. "The fact is that Hennig''s days were numbered anyway. As are Anne''s. The operation to discredit Hollis really only looks good if we try to eliminate her, too-as befits someone who betrayed us. And that''s especially important now that the French are trying to have her extradited back here to face trial for Hennig''s murder. Needless to say, that just can''t be allowed to happen. Which is where you come in, Gunther."

"Me?" I shrugged. "Let me get this straight. You''re asking me to kill Anne French?"

"Precisely. Except that I''m not asking. The fact is that you agreeing to kill Anne French is a condition of remaining alive yourself."

Two

October 1956

I estimated once that the Gestapo had employed less than fifty thousand officers to keep an eye on eighty million Germans, but from what I''d read and heard about the GDR, the Stasi employed at least twice that number-to say nothing of their civilian informants or spylets who, rumor had it, amounted to one in ten of the population-to keep an eye on just seventeen million Germans. As deputy head of the Stasi, Erich Mielke was one of the most powerful men in the GDR. And as might have been expected of such a man, he''d already anticipated all my objections to such a distasteful mission as the one he had described and was ready to argue them down with the brute force of one who is used to getting his way with people who are themselves authoritarian and assertive. I had the feeling that Mielke might have grabbed me by the throat or banged my head on the dinner table and, of course, violence was a vital part of his character; as a young communist cadre in Berlin he''d participated in the infamous murder of two uniformed policemen.

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4.5 out of 54.5 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

gammyjill
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Another great Bernie Gunther book...
Reviewed in the United States on April 4, 2017
Okay, first things first. New readers of British author Philip Kerr "Bernie Gunther" series can actually read any of last 9 books in any order they want. (The first three, based in Berlin pre-WW2, should be read first, however). Kerr places Kripo man Gunther in any... See more
Okay, first things first. New readers of British author Philip Kerr "Bernie Gunther" series can actually read any of last 9 books in any order they want. (The first three, based in Berlin pre-WW2, should be read first, however). Kerr places Kripo man Gunther in any setting, in any year. You may find a book with Bernie in France in 1956, Cuba in 1951, Munich in 1948, etc. Bernie Gunther is, in general, a down-on-his luck ex-cop, ex SD-man, fleeing from his wartime activities and his post-war hideouts.

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!
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Glenn A. Hendricks
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Kerr''s use of plain English in Bernie''s inner monologue is a great fit. Hitler is the Leader
Reviewed in the United States on April 15, 2017
Bernie Gunther is off again. The tired and cynical German faces two challenges, one to stay alive as a man on the run through France in 1956 and the other to solve a murder at Hitler''s mountain retreat. Both challenges pit Bernie against immense power and deadly... See more
Bernie Gunther is off again. The tired and cynical German faces two challenges, one to stay alive as a man on the run through France in 1956 and the other to solve a murder at Hitler''s mountain retreat. Both challenges pit Bernie against immense power and deadly consequences.

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.
20 people found this helpful
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doc peterson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
"Trying to be an honest cop in (1939) Germany is like trying to play croquet in no-man''s land"
Reviewed in the United States on April 16, 2017
If you have not read Philip Kerr''s Bernie Gunther novels, you are in for a treat: a fomer Kripo Commissar (Berlin''s version of Scotland Yard), Bernie Gunther is a reluctant anti-hero: an honest cop who is struggling to maintain is sense of dignity and honor in a time when... See more
If you have not read Philip Kerr''s Bernie Gunther novels, you are in for a treat: a fomer Kripo Commissar (Berlin''s version of Scotland Yard), Bernie Gunther is a reluctant anti-hero: an honest cop who is struggling to maintain is sense of dignity and honor in a time when the Nazis (and later, the Stasi) are in power, corrupting and undermining the very institutions (justice, the pursuit of truth) that mean so much to Gunther. While you can read any of the books in any order, I strongly recommend reading the first three (found here as a trilogy in a single volume Berlin Noir: March Violets; The Pale Criminal; A German Requiem ).

In _Prussian Blue_, Gunther is tracked down by a former Kripo cop now working for the Stasi who demands that Gunther travel to London to murder a woman who the East German government sees as a threat. As Gunther attempts to avoid this, her flashes back to April, 1939 when he first met his colleage (who is now a Stasi agent), investigating a murder at Berchtesgarten (the "Eagle''s Nest" - Hitler''s favorite Bavarian retreat). The flashbacks and flash forwards are typical of Kerr''s storytelling in the Gunther novels, and work well in constructing the story. And while the murder investigation in 1939 and the attempts at evasion in 1956 are engaging, its the way in which Kerr writes Gunther that has kept me such a dedicated fan. As the Stasi agent remarks, "I admire you, Bernie. I also can''t help but think there''s a real danger you''ve always destined to be your own life''s saboteur."

Gunther is a Berliner - blunt, a little "red" (having socialist tendencies is what puts him at odds with the Nazis), and with a biting and pointed sense of humor. Gunther''s sarcasm, wit and dry sense of humor not only make him a very real feeling character, they are also elements that endear him to me. I lover Berlin, and I have a soft spot for Berliners - Kerr''s descriptions of both are spot on.

I loved the book - and I hope for more by Kerr. If you have not had the opportunity to be introduced to this writer or this series, I enthusiastically recommend them to you.
18 people found this helpful
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Mal Warwick
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Disappointing as a novel but continues to fascinate as historical fiction in this outstanding series
Reviewed in the United States on September 26, 2017
In a series of twelve novels to date, British author Philip Kerr has examined the boundless cruelty and corruption that reigned in Nazi Germany. Kerr has done his research. Top Nazis figure in every one of these novels, and his portraits of them are convincing. His... See more
In a series of twelve novels to date, British author Philip Kerr has examined the boundless cruelty and corruption that reigned in Nazi Germany. Kerr has done his research. Top Nazis figure in every one of these novels, and his portraits of them are convincing. His protagonist, Berlin homicide detective Bernie Gunther, is in some ways a standard-issue tough cop like those who populated the crime fiction of the 1930s and 1940s. He''s a big guy who can usually take care of himself in a fight. He''s cynical—what used to be called a "wise guy"—who is prone to run his big mouth far more often than he should. And he repeatedly finds his way to the beds of beautiful women.

But Bernie serves a larger literary purpose. A social democrat who never consented to join the Nazi Party, he''s a foil for the never-ending parade of high-ranking Nazis he meets in the course of his investigations. Bernie isn''t just a non-Nazi; he''s openly anti-Nazi, and he doesn''t care who knows it. Somehow, improbably, he has managed to survive more than two decades in conflict with the Nazi leadership. His consummate skill as a detective saves him every time.

In Prussian Blue, the twelfth novel in the series, the scene shifts back and forth from 1956 to 1939. In ''56, Bernie has been working under a false name as the concierge at the most exclusive hotel on the Riviera. Invited to dinner at another expensive hotel, he finds himself confronting General Erich Mielke, the thoroughly unsavory character who ran the Stasi in Communist East Germany. Mielke threatens to kill Bernie''s estranged wife unless he consents to travel to England and assassinate a Stasi agent there (one of the many women he has bedded). Bernie has done a lot of things, but assassination is out of the question. When he soon afterwards escapes the handlers Mielke has assigned to him, Bernie sets out on a desperate flight by train, automobile, bicycle, and foot in hopes of hiding out in West Germany. The squad of handlers is run by Friedrich Korsch, a former Nazi who had served as Bernie''s assistant on a huge murder case in 1939. Korsch''s reappearance calls up memories of that case, which involved a daisy chain of top Nazi officials. In one flashback after another, we meet Reinhard Heydrich, Martin Bormann, Rudolf Hess, and other top Nazis, including Bormann''s younger brother, Albert. Other key officials, including Adolf Hitler himself, remain behind the curtain, stage right.

All the preceding entries in the Bernie Gunther series speed along at a fast clip, accelerated by surprising bouts of action and Bernie''s nonstop wise-guy banter. The suspense is palpable. The only recurring flaw is that the dialogue is sometimes simply too smooth, witty, and cynical. However, Prussian Blue disappoints for two reasons: Bernie''s flight from the Stasi seems endless and becomes tedious after awhile, and both his dialogue and his private thoughts run on far too long. On several occasions, I found myself getting impatient, wishing for an editor: this book could have been about one-third shorter. It''s still worth reading for the historical perspective on the Nazi leadership.
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Dan Berger
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Kerr just keeps getting better and better
Reviewed in the United States on May 4, 2017
Kerr just keeps getting better and better in this series, steadily finding new rocks of the Nazi era to pick up to view what wriggles beneath. I would have expected to find Bernie Gunther becoming two-dimensional episodes ago, but he never does. One measure of... See more
Kerr just keeps getting better and better in this series, steadily finding new rocks of the Nazi era to pick up to view what wriggles beneath. I would have expected to find Bernie Gunther becoming two-dimensional episodes ago, but he never does.

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.
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Treetown
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great new entry to the ongoing series
Reviewed in the United States on March 31, 2018
The is in the Bernie Gunther series. If you are already reading the series you know the protagonist and what the structure is like. If you are new to the series - you are probably better off digging up the first few novels so you''ll get a better sense of what is occurring.... See more
The is in the Bernie Gunther series. If you are already reading the series you know the protagonist and what the structure is like. If you are new to the series - you are probably better off digging up the first few novels so you''ll get a better sense of what is occurring. In brief, the main character Bernie Gunther was a pretty good detective in pre-WW2 Berlin. Good as in, he was not overtly crooked and good in the sense he opposed Hitler and the Nazis and could see the disaster to come. He is not a classic hero however because in the end he goes along to get along, so he can save himself and various friends, wives and colleagues. He serves in various capacities in the Nazi police infrastructure and later survived into post-WW2 West Germany.

The structure of the novels typically has two plot streams - one in the current time frame (usually post-war late 1940-1950 Europe, Cuba or South America) and one in the past - pre-WW2 and WW2 Germany. In the past Gunther ends up investigating murders and mayhem with actual historical figures popping in and out. This is really one of the strengths of the works - well researched and clever time lines that are all indeed plausible. In the post-war present Gunther is trying to survive and live a quiet life with his head down but the past often surfaces to drag him back. There is usually a common thread or character(s) linking the two plot streams: old comrades, enemies and friends. One of the strengths is the depiction of the "villains". They are not stupid - they can be frankly evil and horrifying but many are quite sly and devious - so the reader and Bernie need to have their wits about them.

In this current novel, Gunther is sent to sort out a mysterious shooting death on a balcony of a villa in Berchtesgaden - where Hitler frequents. This is in the period just before the outbreak of WW2. He is under a deadline to solve the murder and produce a satisfactory solution before Hitler visits. In the present, an old enemy from the previous entry in the series has come to strong arm him into doing a crime - something Bernie does not want to do, so he goes on the run. The two plots become linked as the person Bernie hunts in the past leads him to a place in the present where he seeks sanctuary.

It is one of the better entries and again, the research background is excellent with little twists like the less well known use of amphetamines.
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Urenna
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
There is No New Thing Under The Sun
Reviewed in the United States on May 3, 2017
In 1956, former Berlin Police Commissar Bernie Gunther, under an alias, lived and worked on the French Rivera as a hotel concierge. It was October. The hostelry had seen their finale for the season. In a ruse, head of East Germany’s Stasi, General Erich Mielke, lured Bernie... See more
In 1956, former Berlin Police Commissar Bernie Gunther, under an alias, lived and worked on the French Rivera as a hotel concierge. It was October. The hostelry had seen their finale for the season. In a ruse, head of East Germany’s Stasi, General Erich Mielke, lured Bernie to a restaurant for dinner.

Five months earlier, on the Riviera, Mielke set Bernie up in a sting to protect East Germany’s deeply embedded spy in MI5. However, there was still a loose end, English spy and double agent, Anne French, who had fled to the southeast coast of England. In order for Bernie to remain alive, Mielke demanded he eliminate her. But Bernie realized he would also be a loose end if he carried out Mielke’s order. On a train bound for England, Bernie fought his way out of the Stasis’ tight grip and leapt from the train. To make sure Bernie was caught, Mielke’s minion, Friedrich Korsch, murdered the train’s policeman. Hence, Bernie became a cop killer. A desperate, hunted fugitive in France, with no support.

Seventeen years earlier, in April 1939, Bernie recalled his previous life as Commissar of Berlin, Germany’s Police. He had been ordered by General Heydrich to investigate a murder in Obersalzberg for Hitler’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Martin Bormann. Dr. Karl Flex, an engineer, had been murdered in the Berghof on the terrace of Hitler’s mountain retreat. Bormann commanded Bernie find the killer immediately before Hitler returned for his fiftieth birthday. Bernie’s assistant, at that time, was none other than the thuggish, Friedrich Korsh.

In flash backs, Bernie recalled how Mielke reminded him of Martin Bormann. Both were brutal criminals, power-hungry, and avaricious.

Bernie was tough-minded, committed, and tenacious, like a dog with a bone. He had a way of getting under your skin. He ‘shot from the hip’ with quips that were witty, insightful, or inflammatory. Yet Bernie was not a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, nor an extremist or racist. He was empathetic and humane. In 1939, his assistant, Detective Friedrich Korsch wanted them to quit and leave Obersalzberg. Korsch remarked, “They (Nazis) all think their best arguments come from the barrel of a gun. You don’t know when it’s in your own interest to stop.” Hitler’s upper echelon, desensitized Nazis in Obersalzberg, hated Bernie’s intrusion and abrasiveness. He would find out secrets that were best kept hidden. On his return to Homburg and the Schlossberg Caves, Bernie realized there was nothing new under the sun.

Author, Philip Kerr, is masterful in writing Prussian Blue in flash backs. The novel has a good story that is thrilling and full of suspense. It parallels Bernie Gunther being down on his luck and hunted in the fall of 1956 and, in April 1939, he is the successful Commissar of Berlin Police, who hunts down the suspect that committed a murder on Hitler’s estate.

I like that Kerr always gives you a slice of German history before and after World War II. Although the book is fiction, Kerr interweaved in the notorious men and women, who were in Hitler’s circle. He provided factual information and updates you on their demise in the Author’s Note and Acknowledgments.

There is no doubt a sequel will follow. I gave this book five stars.
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Larry
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
taut thriller, work of art
Reviewed in the United States on January 2, 2021
Another taut Bernie Gunther thriller masterfully crafted by the virtuoso Philip Kerr during the final few years of his life. The aging Bernie is once more on the run, this time from his criminal assistant from prewar days who''s now, in 1956, an operative of STASI, the East... See more
Another taut Bernie Gunther thriller masterfully crafted by the virtuoso Philip Kerr during the final few years of his life. The aging Bernie is once more on the run, this time from his criminal assistant from prewar days who''s now, in 1956, an operative of STASI, the East German secret police.
The fugitive Gunther recollects the most dramatic experience he shared with his old assistant
As an unwilling servant of the Nazi regime in the Germany of 1939, senior Berlin homicide detective Gunther is assigned the task of solving a brutal murder at Hitler''s Bavarian hideaway in alpine Berchtesgaden. Bernie navigates labrynthine politics, threats and deadly violence to solve the mystery only to leave himself more deeply mired in the corrupution of the Nazis than ever before.
An aura of menace and peril suffuse both Gunther''s present situation and his investigation in Berchtesgaden just before the start of World War II. Kerr was a skilled storyteller and this, one of his last books, is truly a work of art.
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Top reviews from other countries

Michael Clayton
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Very good to see Bernie Gunther back in print
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 27, 2017
Very good to see Bernie Gunther back in print. As usual I became immersed in reading about Philip Kerr''s honourable detective operating inside the Nazi system. Kerr uses his two-period double narrative system to great effect in this novel, switching between pre-war and...See more
Very good to see Bernie Gunther back in print. As usual I became immersed in reading about Philip Kerr''s honourable detective operating inside the Nazi system. Kerr uses his two-period double narrative system to great effect in this novel, switching between pre-war and postwar Europe. I preferred this book to the previous one involving Somerset Maugham. Much of Prussian Blue was well up to standard, especially the detailed descriptions of Hitler''s Bavarian mountain lair. The story became somewhat burdened by repeated lengthy statements of the characters'' political beliefs and the manifest evils of the Nazi system, versus the emphasis on Bernie''s credentials as a liberal Berliner. The action squences were usually excellent, although the final sort-out stretched belief . Overall it was yet another worthwhile addition to the Bernie Gunther library, and should please his many fans.
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Ian Thumwood
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Thoroughly researched and totally engrossing thriller
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 18, 2018
I was intrigued by the covers of these books and the extremely positive reviews made me ever more tempted. However, after a few initial chapters set in 1956, I thought that this was going to be a pulp fiction novel that would be difficult to get through. A little way in,...See more
I was intrigued by the covers of these books and the extremely positive reviews made me ever more tempted. However, after a few initial chapters set in 1956, I thought that this was going to be a pulp fiction novel that would be difficult to get through. A little way in, the story reverts back to 1939 and instead of the hero being on the run in France from the Stasi, here he is plunged into the evil and corrupt political world of Nazi Germany. I had initially been sceptical of crime writers, considering them the little more than airport fiction writers and have tended to steer away from them in favour of more literary authors such as Iain McEwan, William Boyd and Kate Atkinson. My bias was initially swept away by Reginald Hill''s excellent Dalziel & Pascoe books but Philip Kerr is now a writer that I would add to this list. Turning back the clock to 1939, the novel immediately goes up a number of gears and from then on is impossible to put down. Although I love history, I tend to lose interest post-1918 and any mention or the Nazis or Communism is generally something I find off-putting. This novel is largely successful because the whole premise is built upon some incredible background research. Gunther may be something of a stock character, the laconic and put upon anti-hero but he is a likeablecharacter and the perfect literary device for exploring the criminal under-belly of the Nazi hierarchy. With Gunther assigned to investigate a murder in Hitler''s Bavarian retreat the premise for the thriller, the author cleverly evokes a world of suspicion and mistrust where solving the crime is not as important as getting a result. The plot was not obvious but to be brutally honest, the pleasure in reading this book stems from the authentic feel of the era. Real characters and events permeate this novel and whilst it if fair to say that this was a page-turner that will have you racing towards the conclusion, the strength of this book rests in it''s portrayal of the "banality of evil." Simply, it feels authentic. There are a few deluded "good" characters in this book who are still in thrall of Hitler if not all of his colleagues. For me, it was the odd details such as the paranoia surrounding Hitler''s dislike of smoking that add credibility to this novel. I found this book impossible to put down with the diversion of the chapters in 1956 eventually grabbing my attention as the book reached it''s conclusion although it did not explain how a former colleague ended up becoming a villain. The book is well crafted yet very readable. I felt that Kerr was creative enough to evoke a world that I had no interest in previously but which fascinated in it''s depiction of the corruption of the Nazi''s in a more human level as opposed to being comic book villains worthy of Indiana Jones. Under Kerr''s pen, the world of Nazi Germany resonates with more recent events with the fabrication of recent history being something that Trump shares with Hitler. Kerr is a brilliant writer. All in all, in my opinion the positive reviews of this book are truly merited and the negative reviews can be dismissed. After a rather brutal and unpleasant beginning, this book snaps in to gear and was compelling enough to have meordering a second novel when this one was little more than a quarter of the way through. The only startling thing about this book was that Gunther has not materialised either on screen or in a TV series. In the past the Nazis have been portrayed as almost ridiculous yet in the craftsmanship of Kerr''s brilliant writing and thorough research, a more credible interpretation emerges which illustrates the cynical fashion under which standard police investigations mutated in to something political and sinister. Phillip Kerr''s Bernie Gunther is a real find.
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S. Evans
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five stars is not enough this time
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 1, 2018
Prussian Blue is a real tour de force by Kerr, now head and shoulders above all other writers, past and present, in this challenging genre. In this gripping latest outing for detective Bernie Gunther, once again he lays bare the horrors, and not just for Jews, of life under...See more
Prussian Blue is a real tour de force by Kerr, now head and shoulders above all other writers, past and present, in this challenging genre. In this gripping latest outing for detective Bernie Gunther, once again he lays bare the horrors, and not just for Jews, of life under Nazi rule. This time the supremely talented author takes us right into the very bowels of Hitler''s Berchtesgaden where billions of reischmarks are being lavished on a makeover as Hitler''s 50th birthday approaches. These festivities are threatened when a senior member of the leader''s entourage is killed, and Gunther is summoned to trace the killer. In his fast-paced narrative style, coupled as always with immaculate research and lovely prose, Kerr describes Gunther''s heart-stopping encounters with the likes of Himmler, Heydrich and the Bormann brothers. These lovely people fight like rats in sack as it becomes ever more clear that Hitler is steadily losing his marbles. We now know that Churchill wisely opposed plans to assassinate Hitler for fear of his being replaced by a leader with a better understanding of military strategy than the delusional Austrian. Kerr unearths some fascinating material in support of this belief, and as always his astonishingly detailed grasp of historical detail has you wondering, from time to time, is this is a work of fiction! Most authors with a prolific output of long books - and this is one of Kerr''s longest at 550 pages - throw up a disappointment now and again. One thinks of Robert Harris''s Conclave, some later work from Frederick Forsyth and even the odd turkey from John le Carre, but Kerr keeps his readers on the edge of their seats page by page, book after book. In this one he even tickles our expectations with 300 pages in which Gunther fails to get into bed with his leading lady. Will he, won''t he? Read and find out! Kerr has become a literary treasure. His books should be compulsory reading for all authors aspiring to the genre, plus a few who have let us down already with some dire offerings.
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old man
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Work of art
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 11, 2017
Once again Mr Kerr has produced an amazing piece of historical research based around the mythical Bernie Gunther adventures in Nazi Germany. This work is well written and has a natural flow. A real joy from a professional wordsmith.
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Hereward Sporke
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Another Philip Kerr winner!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 20, 2019
If you have any interest in Nazi era Germany (as told by a fictional "ANTI-NAZI" detective! ) - the Bernie Gunther series is for you! Mixing both real and fictional characters in real and imagined situations & locations they are well researched and informative. The stories...See more
If you have any interest in Nazi era Germany (as told by a fictional "ANTI-NAZI" detective! ) - the Bernie Gunther series is for you! Mixing both real and fictional characters in real and imagined situations & locations they are well researched and informative. The stories put flesh on the bones of various real personnel & events during humanities darkest hours. I recommend any and all in this series. I''d recommend starting from book 1 ( if possible) -to see the characters develop. Looking forward to reading future episodes in Bernie Gunther''s escapades!
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