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March violets by Philip Kerr
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March violets (original 1989; edition 2004)

by Philip Kerr

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5062920,102 (3.68)110
Member:countrylife
Title:March violets
Authors:Philip Kerr
Info:New York : Penguin Books, 2004.
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:Read, Read 2012, E.audiobook, {cover-member, P.Berlin, P.Germany, .historical fiction, .mystery, crime fiction, nazis, noir, E.audio-cd, audio-5 stars

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March Violets by Philip Kerr (1989)

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English (20)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Set in 1933 Germany, with a PI who is against the Nazi party, Kerr has written a classic hard-boiled detective story in the vein of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. ( )
  ktoonen | Jul 9, 2014 |
A gritty, noir thriller, and the first of what promises to be a gripping series. Bernie Gunther has left the police force and struck out on his own as a private investigator. What makes his work interesting is the time and place: Berlin, 1936 when the Nazis are in full power and preparing for the Summer Olympics. His services are more or less forcibly retained by a millionaire industrialist who has just lost his beloved daughter and her husband to a fire in their home. Both bodies are found in their bed, and the safe containing a priceless diamond necklace has been broken into. Was this a straightforward murder and burglary or is there more than first meets the eye? As Gunther investigates local jewelry vendors, he can't help but be horrified at how the Jews are being taken advantage of, with glaring anti-semitism at it's peak. Desperate to sell their valuables to get away from the repressive measures taken against them (most professions are banned to them, and everyone is quick to add "German" as a preface to their profession on their business cards to indicate they are of good Arian stock), they are forced to sell their belongings well below the market price. Trying to find out anything in this repressive system is bound to bring about all sorts of complications, and when Bernie's widowed secretary is too scared to return to work after being bullied by Nazi police officers, he's delighted to find a beautiful and single replacement for her in ex-journalist Ilse, but their romantic involvement is bound to render him that much more vulnerable. “March violets” was a term used for late-comers to the Nazi Party after the passage of Hitler's Enabling Act which rendered him a dictator on March 23, 1933. In May, the Nazi Party froze membership, and those with the lowest membership numbers were given preferential treatment, though everyone was eager to be seen as a Hitler supporter. Not so Bernie, who has Jewish clients and doesn't care for the views of a party he never chose to support, which is dangerous in and of itself because dissidents are daily being sent to concentration camps, where few are expected to survive the harsh conditions. I loved every bit of this private dick story set during a very dramatic period in history. Those who've enjoyed the more recent John Russell series by David Downing are bound to find this precursor highly satisfying. I'm very much looking forward to the next book! ( )
  Smiler69 | May 11, 2014 |
). Pelican has released a trilogy of his Berlin detective novels that feature the wise-cracking, ex-Kripo, private detective, Bernie Gunther. The first, March Violets, takes place in 1936 as the Nazis are rising to power, and Kerr sets the scene masterfully. Bernie has been hired to find the contents of a safe that belonged to the daughter of Herr Six, a wealthy German manufacturer. It seems Six’s daughter and son-in-law were murdered, their house torched, and jewels worth millions of marks removed from the safe. Six wants those jewels back. Bernie’s investigation leads him to join an uneasy alliance with Hermann Goering as he finds himself caught in a powerplay between the Gestapo and the Sicherheitsdienst. It turns out that there were really two thefts the night of the murders and that one body may even have been misidentified (no hints, but the ending has a neat twist). Bernie can only extricate himself from the web by catching the man who has the secret to the location of the stolen papers and who is hiding in the only place he thinks the enemy won’t look for him: a concentration camp. Kerr has recreated an authentic feel of what was a very dangerous time, when no one could trust anyone else and death was at the whim of the powerful. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
This is the first of Kerr's series about ex-cop-turned-PI Bernie Gunther, here trying to solve a case (he's hired by a plutocrat to track down an expensive item of jewellery missing from the safe of the plutocrat's murdered daughter and son-in-law) while coping with the everyday horrors and bureaucratic complications of Nazism in pre-WWII Berlin.

A problem the novel has is that this latter aspect is often far more interesting, and far more effectively portrayed, than the noirish plot itself; I came away from the novel with a real sense that Nazism was soul-destroying in a far more wholesale manner than simply its policies of mass murder (barely getting into action by the time of this book), with not just the obvious victims of its viciousness being brutalized but also all the Germans who either obeyed mindlessly or -- the "March violets" of the title -- went along with the "disappearances" and other atrocities for reasons of terrified or mercenary self-interest.

A second difficulty is the writing style. Yes, it's refreshing that Kerr should put into Gunther's narration the kind of sardonic wisecracking similes that Raymond Chandler and other writers of the hardboiled era deployed to such spectacular effect, and sometimes it works. At other times, though, it becomes wearisome either because a particular simile stretches laboriously over two or three lines or simply because there have already been far too many similes over the past couple of pages.

Overall, then: moderately enjoyable, and in some places powerfully affecting. I read the novel bound up in an omnibus (Berlin Noir, 1993) with the next two in the series, and so was happy enough to keep reading. If I'd read it as a solo title, however, I'm not sure I'd have troubled to do so. ( )
  JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
I really struggled with March Violets, despite the fact that I usually love crime and thriller novels set in the 1930s and 40s. Philip Kerr is clearly a talented writer, who has created an interesting and believable character in private detective, Bernard Gunther; investigating the suspicious death of a steel magnet’s daughter and her husband in Berlin at the time of the 1936 Olympics, I really wanted to get into the story, but I found too many distractions to make this a smooth read. Kerr creates an excellent sense of time and place, everything sounds and feels believable and realistic, but the heavy use of acronyms, abbreviations and the Nazi obsession with a myriad of different levels of military and civilian law enforcement, meant I was constantly puzzling to understand their relative significance in the overall story. In the end, I simply went along for the ride, not bothering whether I knew which department was which, and which or who was who. Perhaps an understanding of German and knowledge of the Nazi organisation would have helped. Don’t think I’ll be reading the other two books in this trilogy, despite liking Gunther and his sardonic humour.
© Koplowitz 2012 ( )
  Ant.Harrison | Apr 28, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Kerrprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bernardini, PatriziaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Berlin, 1936,

First Man: Have you noticed how the March Violets have managed to completely overtake Party veterans like you and me?,

Second Man: You're right. Perhaps if Hitler had also waited a little before climbing on to the Nazi bandwagon he'd have become Führer quicker too.

          Schwarze Korps, November 1935
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For my mother
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Stranger things happen in the dark dreams of the Great Persuader...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142004146, Paperback)

Hailed by Salman Rushdie as a “brilliantly innovative thriller-writer,” Philip Kerr is the creator of taut, gripping, noir-tinged mysteries that are nothing short of spellbinding. The first book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, March Violets introduces readers to Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought he’d seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin—until he turned freelance and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture. Hard-hitting, fast-paced, and richly detailed, March Violets is noir writing at its blackest and best.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:33 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The brutality and corruption of Nazi Germany serve as the backdrop for this impressive debut mystery novel. Scottish-born Kerr re-creates the period accurately and with verve; the novel reeks of the sordid decade that saw Hitler's rise to power. Bernhard Gunther is a hard-boiled Berlin detective who specializes in tracking down missing persons--mostly Jews. He is summoned by a wealthy industrialist to find the murderer of his daughter and son-in-law, killed during the robbery of a priceless diamond necklace. Gunther quickly is catapulted into a major political scandal involving Hitler's two main henchmen, Goering and Himmler. The search for clues takes Gunther to morgues overflowing with Nazi victims; raucous nightclubs; the Olympic games where Jesse Owens tramples the theory of Aryan racial superiority; the boudoir of a famous actress; and finally to the Dachau concentration camp. Fights with Gestapo agents, shoot-outs with adulterers, run-ins with a variety of criminals, and dead bodies in unexpected places keep readers guessing to the very end. Narrator Gunther is a spirited guide through the chaos of 1930s Berlin and, more important, a detective cast in the classic mold. -- Publishers Weekly.… (more)

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