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Berlin Noir (2010)

by Philip Kerr

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Bernie Gunther (Omnibus 1-3)

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1,653379,267 (4.12)119
Ex-policeman Bernie Gunther thought he'd seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin. But then he went freelance, and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture. And even after the war, amidst the decayed, imperial splendour of Vienna, Bernie uncovered a legacy that made the wartime atrocities look lily-white in comparison.… (more)

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English (27)  French (4)  Dutch (4)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (37)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Set mostly in Germany in the late 1930s and 1940s, Bernard Gunther is an ex-policeman, turned private detective. A series of three novels. The first is about the murder of a steel industrialists' daughter and son-in-law, which seems to be about a jewel robbery, but devolves into politcal intrigue. The second focuses on a series of Aryan teenage women, raped with their throats cut, which it turns out have political overtones and Bernie is re-hired as a policeman to solve the murders. In the third book, a former colleague from the police is arrested for a murder in Vienna that he did not commit, and there is much wrangling in post-war politics between the Americans and Russians. Good detective series, especially if you like period pieces. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
Whilst I am on my crusade against imagination-impaired book people, let me tell you about Berlin Noir, it is what you might call “a detective story”, the other genre that has an uphill struggle.

My copy contains 3 novels in the one cover: March Violets, The Pale Criminal and A German Requiem.

The main character is a detective and these three novels are set in the pre and post war Germany and Austria.

Like all good detectives he is flawed but has morals and scruples but that is where the cliché ends. The stories have bite to them, they have substance and are, dare I say, interesting and well written. It is easy to feel empathy with the guy even when he is being bad.

I think what attracts me to detective novels is that they are so unpretentious and not trying to be clever or deep. I imagine that, as a writer, this must be so liberating and at the same time so hard to conceal the ending right up until the ending.

You are never going to win a Pulitzer with a detective novel because there are so many good ones. Imagine having to wade through all that other dreck that gets judged without actually having any way to know if it is good or not. I guess it’s got to be good if you see it in the pocket of the emperor’s new clothes?

However, I digress, there is never any doubt when you are reading a detective novel if it is good or not. I would bet that more pairs of candle ends are burnt on detective novels that Pulitzer winners. For example: Perry Mason by Erle Stanley Gardner has sold over 300 million copies.

Is money not the best guide to what is good or not? In fact I wasted years reading my way through the Booker winners when I should have been reading my way through the Best Seller lists here:


For a bit of historical detective goodness read this book. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
Now published in one paperback volume, these three mysteries are exciting and insightful looks at life inside Nazi Germany -- richer and more readable than most histories of the period. We first meet ex-policeman Bernie Gunther in 1936, in March Violets (a term of derision which original Nazis used to describe late converts.) The Olympic Games are about to start; some of Bernie's Jewish friends are beginning to realize that they should have left while they could; and Gunther himself has been hired to look into two murders that reach high into the Nazi Party. In The Pale Criminal, it's 1938, and Gunther has been blackmailed into rejoining the police by Heydrich himself. And in A German Requiem, the saddest and most disturbing of the three books, it's 1947 as Gunther stumbles across a nightmare landscape that conceals even more death than he imagines.
  Cultural_Attache | Jul 18, 2018 |
Bernie Gunther is a 1930s Berlin cop, then a house detective for a major Berlin hotel, then a private investigator, then a cop again, then in the SS, then a private investigator again. I haven’t read all these books so I don’t know what happens to Bernie in between these careers. However, the ones I have read ( If the Dead Rise Not and the Berlin Noir trilogy) seem gritty and realistic. Author Philip Kerr is from Scotland but the ambiance of prewar Germany, postwar Vienna and pre-Communist Cuba all seem believable.

Gunther is a reasonably honest cop and a reasonably honest German, and is therefore conflicted enough by the rise of Hitler and Nazism to resign from the Berlin Kripo when things start to go bad. His investigations force him now and then to work with the likes of Goering and Heydrich, but he’s not enthused about it; when he is later more or less drafted into the SS he successfully applies for a transfer to a combat unit rather than remain in an police unit that’s busy killing Jews. His investigations sometimes seem a little too facile; crucial information falls into his lap and there are seemingly unrelated crimes that end up being tied together (but they advance the story). In the tradition of American pulp detectives, just about every woman Bernie encounters is a knockout who falls into his bed when the opportunity presents – probably a bit more often than actually happened in 1930s Germany. Then again when things are going to hell around them humans do have a tendency to seek solace in bed; I remember reading about an immense increase in sexual activity among the Russians during the “purge trials” in the 1930s so maybe it’s realistic.


Most of Bernie’s cases end poorly by his standards; he can’t save the persecuted or see justice done – unless he sidesteps justice; he’s not adverse to the summary execution of an SS doctor involved in serial killings who he knows will be turned loose if he lets him go, and the later murder of a Havana mob boss. I know next to nothing about 1930s Berlin slang; Kerr’s use (a cop is a “bull”, a criminal is a “spinner”, a prostitute is a “snapper”, a handgun is a “lighter”) seems OK. I find no egregious errors in history or technology (at one point Bernie carries a “9mm Mauser” sidearm as a detective, which seems rather clumsy, even if it’s a Red 9 Bolo; at another he watches a “mechanized division” parade through the streets of Berlin in 1938, although the Wehrmacht didn’t have any “mechanized” divisions then (there were Panzer divisions in 1938, and motorized (not mechanized) divisions, and “light” divisions, but nothing corresponding to the Western idea of a “mechanized” division.) OTOH, when Bernie uses a silenced revolver, it’s a M1895 Nagant, about the only revolver you can put a silencer on and expect it to work; and in 1948 Vienna while investigating on behalf of an old acquaintance who’s a black marketer and involved in a complicated mystery, Bernie comes a film crew making (although the title isn’t given it’s clear what the movie is) The Third Man, which is about a man who gets involved on behalf of an old acquaintance who’s a black marketer and involved in a complicated mystery.

Have to read the rest of these; Bernie has more adventures on the Russian front and in South America. Recommended but not if you’re in the mood for something cheery and uplifting. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 4, 2017 |
Having recently read and enjoyed Kerr's 2016 "The Other Side of Silence" which stars his detective protagonist, Bernie Günther, I decided to go back to the beginning of the series. Berlin Noir is an omnibus of the first three novels: "March Violets" and "The Pale Criminal" are set just before WW2, and "A German Requiem" just after. They were published 26 years ago and there are now 11 books in the series. The plots are complex, twisted and demand something of the reader (but I like that). The violence feels gratuitous, but then I get the impression these were gratuitously violent days. So it doesn't ring hollow. Kerr wants to spice it up with sexual dalliances, the descriptions of which sometimes border on the silly (but these are early books). But the great attraction is reading stories as if from the Other Side. The hero is German, almost a Nazi, speaks Russian better than English (at least in these earlier stories), and looks out at the world with the sensibility of a wounded Berliner. If there is victory here, it is of the human spirit. ( )
  PhilipJHunt | Oct 18, 2016 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Kerrprimary authorall editionscalculated
Berton, GillesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merino, IsabelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schütz, Hans J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Suurmeijer, GerardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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You can tell a lot by a client's shoes. That's the only thing I've picked up from Sherlock Holmes.
"Wealth does have its obligations." So does an outside toilet, I thought.
I had seen bigger stones, but only in photographs of the pyramids.
That this goddess should be married to the gnome sitting in the study was the sort of thing that bolsters your faith in Money. Frau Six was tall and blonde and as healthy-looking as her husband's Swiss bank account.
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Ex-policeman Bernie Gunther thought he'd seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin. But then he went freelance, and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture. And even after the war, amidst the decayed, imperial splendour of Vienna, Bernie uncovered a legacy that made the wartime atrocities look lily-white in comparison.

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This is a compendium of three Bernie Gunther detective stories:- March Violets, The Pale Criminal, A German Requiem
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140231706, 0241962358


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