I had two thoughts when I was handed a proof copy of the new Bernie Gunther thriller. The first, obviously, was: Yessssssssssssssss! Which I might’ve vocalised too, come to think of it, right there in the middle of the store, in front of customers. My second thought: Look at the size of that thing! Because it’s a fat book, Prussian Blue, clocking it at over 500 pages. Not that it felt like it once I started reading. The twelfth Bernie Gunther novel is just as unputdownable as its precursors, this time flicking back and forth between Nazi Germany in 1939 and the French Riviera in 1956, with two seemingly unrelated tales eventually tying together.
The French Riviera, 1956: Bernie is forced to flee France for West Germany after refusing to carry out a hit for Stasi chief Erich Mielke, killing a Stasi agent in the process. Nazi Germany, 1939: Bernie is dispatched to Hitler’s mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden, where a sniper has assassinated Karl Flex, a civil engineer in Martin Bormann’s employ, on the deck of Hitler’s villa, the Berghof. Bernie must solve the crime before Hitler returns to Berchtesgaden to celebrate his 50th birthday.
At its heart, Prussian Blue is a whodunit, easily enjoyed as an archetypal police procedural, if that’s all you want from your crime fiction. What elevates it above its competition is the context in which Bernie must run his investigation: amidst the corruption and brutality of the Nazi regime. As always, the verisimilitude of Bernie’s world really shines through, and his wit is drier than ever. With Gunther, Philip Kerr has created the perfect vehicle to explore the grey edge of morality; but one must think it’s only a matter of time before he’s pushed from that precipice.
In a standout series, this is one of its best. Prussian Blue will be lapped up by long-time fans, who’ll already be awaiting the confirmed thirteenth Bernie Gunther caper, Greeks Bearing Gifts; for everybody else, this is a fine place to start your love affair with Kerr’s roguish detective. Then again, you can’t really go wrong. Philip Kerr and Bernie Gunther are that good.
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Imprint: Quercus Publishing
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Publish Date: 4-Apr-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom