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March violets by Philip Kerr

March violets (original 1989; edition 2004)

by Philip Kerr

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Title:March violets
Authors:Philip Kerr
Info:New York : Penguin Books, 2004.
Collections:Read but unowned
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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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
). 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 |
Bernie Gunther investigates the murder of the daughter of one of German’s wealthiest industrialists while the 1936 Summer Olympics play out in Berlin. Gunther is an ex-policeman that thought he had seen everything, but becoming a freelance Private Investigator has found him being sucked into the horrible excesses of Nazi subculture.

This is classic hard-boiled/noir fiction; it has the hard-hitting detective, a fast-paced plot and the everyday violence you come to expect. But this time that everyday violence comes in the forms of anti-Semitisms and the Nazi regime. The Nazi German backdrop is a great location for noir novel and makes for a whole cast of strong and interesting characters.

While the plot does need some polish, as it’s not a very strong crime plot, the interference from the Kripo and Gestapo did a great job of masking the flaws. March Violets reminds me a lot of Fatherland by Robert Harris with the concept but for me March Violets concept was much better just not as well executed.

The over used metaphors and attempts at humour really took away from the richly developed backdrop and while at times it did drag on a little, I really found myself enjoying this book. I’m not sure how well Philip Kerr researched this novel but the way he portrayed Nazi Germany felt right in my mind; the strong police state trying to play nice for the Olympic games and then the inability or unwillingness of ordinary Germans to try stop the crimes or injustices, while spending most of their time worrying about the coming war.

March Violets is the first in the Berlin Noir series and based on this book, I’m looking forward to reading the next two books. Not sure if I will continue the series after that but I will start with them. Bernie Gunther is a great protagonist with his hard hitting ways that seem like they will land him in a KZ (Konzentrationslager or Concentration camp). I’m glad I picked this book up, while there are some weak points, like I said before, they seem to be easily missed with everything else happening in this book. Well worth reading for pulp fans, it’s a fresh take on this genre.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/03/24/book-review-march-violets/ ( )
  knowledgelost | Mar 31, 2013 |
This novel is set in the 1930's in Nazi Germany. Bernie Gunther is a private investigator and an ex cop. He is brought in to investigate a double murder and robbery of jewels. The father of the murdered girl is a steel magnate and he is the one who brings in Bernie to investigate the crime. In his investigation Bernie unravels a more complicated puzzle concerning some important documents and betrayal. He gets into trouble with the authorities and gets away.

This gives an insight into Nazi Germany leading into the Second World War. The novel reads like a classic American detective fiction. So anyone who is a fan of that should read this. Otherwise it's just ok. ( )
  mausergem | Feb 21, 2013 |
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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
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)

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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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