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The Pale Criminal (1990)

by Philip Kerr

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Bernie Gunther (1938⎪2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5631533,101 (3.84)55
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. In this second book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, "The Pale Criminal" brings back Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought hed seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlinuntil 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, "The Pale Criminal" is noir writing at its blackest and best.… (more)
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» See also 55 mentions

English (10)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
I am finding that I have some guilt about enjoying a detective mystery series with this setting. And yet the deeply weird SS spiritualism subplot deserves a genre rendition. Nowhere to shelter in Berlin at this time. ( )
  Je9 | Aug 10, 2021 |
Very good, I believe I liked this better than the first, which was also very good. So I guess this was very, very good? Narrator was good as well!

I will say that I thought the couple of sex scenes were a little creepy. A little too explicit for the needs of the book. Fabio is not on the cover. ( )
  BooksForDinner | May 10, 2019 |
The Pale Criminal is the second of Philip Kerr’s Berlin Noir series featuring private investigator Bernie Gunther. He's trying to make a living in pre-war Nazi Germany and avoid the Nazis, but that is just not going to be possible. While the first book of the series, March Violets, was set during the 1936 Olympics, The Pale Criminal is set at the time of the first wave of German invasions.

Bernie has just been hired by a wealthy woman, who wants him to find out who is blackmailing her about her homosexual son. In a separate story line, Gunther is commanded by Reinhardt Heydrich to investigate the murders of several Aryan girls. The reader know the two plots inevitably will be tied together but it's done in a way that is very believable. The subject matter is not pleasant to read about but it's done in an accurate way, depicting the Nazi's hostility to both Judaism and Catholicism.

Bernie Gunther is the epitome of a noir private investigator, and is the center of the novel in every respect. He's cynical and filled with foreboding about the future of Germany. The setting of 1938 Berlin is very realistic, and the author throw in plenty of details about the architecture and surrounding neighborhoods to make the story extremely vivid. This novel is both complex and chilling, and even if you don't like the subject matter, you can't stop reading. I'm looking forward to Book 3, German Requiem. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Aug 9, 2017 |
While I really enjoyed the first book in the series, March Violets earlier this month (review), I can't say I felt quite the same about this one. We are now in the Berlin of 1938 and Bernie Gunther is asked to rejoin the police force to work on a serial murder case. Several young girls have gone missing and been found defiled in the most gruesome manner: raped, tied by their feet and drained of their blood exactly like slaughtered pigs. All the girls were around 15, blonde and blue-eyed; the perfect Arian stereotype. Another private case has him uncovering a man blackmailing a wealthy widow, a publisher whose son is a homosexual who (inadvisedly in this age of Nazi power) kept up a correspondence with his lover, some of those letters now being in the hands of the blackmailer. Two very different cases, and no apparent link to the question of the oppression of the Jews in this year which is marked by Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, an organized attack against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria which took place on the 9th and 10th November 1938. But of course we eventually learn that no crime in this time and place could occur without the aim of further oppressing the Jews.

While I liked the way the case started resolving itself two-thirds of the way in, I've developed a serious dislike for forms of entertainment which centre on serial rapes and murders of women, and the details in this case were truly horrendous. Perhaps because of this, I focused more on little things that bothered me with the first book; endless questionable similes and a main hero who is a typical macho male, which is accurate enough for the period portrayed and amused me the first time around, but here set off against the background of these female victims was distasteful to me. Is that reverse sexism on my part? All the same, solid writing overall (except those similes—why?) and a crime story which places the reader firmly in the heart of Nazi Germany just before WWII. I'll be reading (or listening to) the third book to see what trouble Bernie gets into next. ( )
  Smiler69 | May 26, 2014 |
It must have been hard for the silent dissenters to cover their reluctance to adopt the Nazi salute. For the Germans of the late 1930s it was not a rebellious time, and Bernie has to overcome his he hesitation and just do it. There is this is one of moment in this book, "Heil Hitler", and now it is done.

Hard-drinking, chain-smoking, Bernie Gunter is also cynical. With an eye for the beauty of women. The book has all the habitual components of the crime-noir genre, what sets it apart is the choice of place and time -- Berlin of 1938. Nazism is now enthusiastically embraced by the German nation, conformity is a form of patriotism, Hitler is agitating the nation towards its first invasion, that of the Sudetenland.

Bernhard Gunter is summoned back into the police force, an offer he can't refuse, as a form of agreement he demands that he is given the rank of Kriminalkommissar. A persistent damaging case of serial killings demands action from the authorities. But 6 years of Nazi rule purged all competent detectives and the chief of the police is forced to recruit Bernie back.

Besides the usual criminal scum of the genre working on the case reveals many less known sides of the life of the upper Nazi echelon.

But life is hard.

"Survival, especially in these difficult times, has to count as some achievement. It's not something that comes easily. Life in Nazi Germany demands that you keep working at it. But, having done that much, you're left with the problem of giving it some purpose. After all, what good is health and security if your life has no meaning?" ( )
  port22 | Mar 2, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
El antiguo policía Bernie Gunther creía que ya lo había visto todo en las calles de Berlín de los años treinta. Pero cuando dejó el cuerpo para convertirse en detective privado, cada nuevo caso lo iba hundiendo un poco más en los horribles excesos de la subcultura nazi. Después de la guerra, en medio del esplendor imperial y decadente de Viena, Bernie incluso llega a poner al descubierto un legado que, en comparación, convierte las atrocidades cometidas en
época de guerra en un juego de niños...
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kerr, Philipprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bernardini, PatriziaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jääskeläinen, Jukkasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Larsstuvold, RuneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merino, IsabelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ogolter, MartinCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schütz, Hans J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Suurmeijer, GerardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Bernie Gunther (1938⎪2)

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Much about your good people moves me to disgust, and it is not their evil I mean. How I wish they possessed a madness through which they could perish, like this pale criminal. Truly I wish their madness were called truth or loyalty or justice: but they possess their virtue in order to love long and in a miserable ease.

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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. In this second book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, "The Pale Criminal" brings back Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought hed seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlinuntil 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, "The Pale Criminal" is noir writing at its blackest and best.

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