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118 of 120 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A knight without armor in a savage land
"A good story cannot be devised it has to be distilled." Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler was a master at taking a plot and distilling it into a taut, splendid story. Chandler, along with Dashiell Hammett, pretty much invented the "hard-boiled detective". So, when a writer, in this instance Philip Kerr, comes along who is repeatedly compared to Raymond...
Published on 20 Nov. 2006 by Leonard Fleisig

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Running out of steam
I really enjoyed March Violets and as a Chandler/Hammett fan I devoured the first of the trilogy and felt I had stumbled upon something fresh and interesting. With a large slice of optimism, I started on The Pale Criminal and started to see a few too many parallels with characters and scenes from Chandler's work which started to give me some doubts whether this was such...
Published on 18 May 2013 by Pipski


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118 of 120 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A knight without armor in a savage land, 20 Nov. 2006
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Berlin Noir ('March Violets', 'The Pale Criminal' and 'A German Requiem') (Penguin Crime/Mystery) (Paperback)
"A good story cannot be devised it has to be distilled." Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler was a master at taking a plot and distilling it into a taut, splendid story. Chandler, along with Dashiell Hammett, pretty much invented the "hard-boiled detective". So, when a writer, in this instance Philip Kerr, comes along who is repeatedly compared to Raymond Chandler comes along, I can't resist seeing for myself. I'm happy I picked up Berlin Noir and, even if Kerr is not quite Chandler, his stories are so well written that he need not be embarrassed by the comparison.

Berlin Noir consists of three Kerr novels, "March Violets", "The Pale Criminal", and "German Requiem". They each feature Kerr's exquisitely drawn detective Bernie Gunther. If you've read Hammett, Cain, or Chandler, Gunther is instantly recognizable. He's a tough ex-cop now working as a private eye. He's bitter and cynical and sees the corruption all around him. He also has an eye for the ladies as well as a taste for booze. But for all his flaws he lives up to a certain code; he knows the world isn't black and white but he has his own moral compass and lives by it - for the most part.

What distinguishes Gunther from Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe is location. Gunther is a German, and instead of Los Angeles, he makes his base in Berlin. The three stories are set in 1936 (March Violets"), 1938 ("Pale Criminal"), and 1947 (the aptly named "German Requiem") against the backdrop of the rise and fall of Hitler's Nazi Germany. He left the Berlin police once the force became nothing more than a tool of the new regime. The time and setting are perfect for a genre in which shades of grey dominate the palette. Gunther is tasked with solving crimes while navigating the Byzantine-maze of inter-party rivalries, many of which are deadly.

I was fascinated by Gunther and the world Kerry paints for him. I usually take a break in between books that are part of a series but I couldn't do that with the three stories in Berlin Noir. They are all well-crafted and suspenseful. Although Kerr is clearing paying homage to his genre the stories are original and not generic. In other words Kerr is not the literary equivalent of an Elvis-impersonator. He has written these stories within the confines of a genre but has not sacrificed his own voice. The plots are complex but not so complex that they cannot be followed. With each story the personality of Gunther becomes a bit clearer so that by the time the reader is finished with them, Gunther is really a fully-formed and very believable character.

Kerr has just published a new Bernie Gunther novel entitled "The One from the Other". I am about one third of the way through it. It is an excellent sequel made all the more enjoyable by having read "Berlin Noir". Highly recommended. L. Fleisig
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A German Sam Spade, 16 May 2007
By 
steve b (Dudley England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Berlin Noir ('March Violets', 'The Pale Criminal' and 'A German Requiem') (Penguin Crime/Mystery) (Paperback)
Bernie Gunther is an ex Kripo (German CID) officer working as a private detective in pre and post war Berlin. He is tough, cynical and wisecraking, but also honest and decent. In fact he is Sam Spade/Philip Marlowe transplaned from California to Germany. Bernie's job brings him into contact with historical figures like Himmler, Goering and Artur Nebe, the real life wartime head of the German Kripo.

Philip Kerr is one of those writers who can transplant you into a different world, in this case pre and post war Germany. In doing so he has created a number of slang terms which I do not know if they are real German slang but it does not matter as they sound right.

Berlin Noir contains three out of four Bernie Gunther novels, March Violets, The Pale Criminal and German Requiem. The first of these also concerns the German Rings who Mafia like controlled crime in pre Nazi Berlin. The Rings were destroyed by more violent criminals, the Nazis.

The Pale Criminal has Bernie recruited back into the Berlin Police in order to catch a serial killer who may be linked to the ruling Nazi Party. German Requiem moves to post war Berlin and Vienna with refences to the Third Man.

All three stand up in their own right and Mr Kerr can be congratulated on coming up with a new idea and for being able to create a milleu as well as being able to plot and write very well indeed.

Bernie Gunther is welcome and different addition to the ranks of fictional dectectives
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Berlin Noir - An Excellent Read., 25 Feb. 2009
By 
K. D. Foster "Kerry Foster" (Shropshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Berlin Noir ('March Violets', 'The Pale Criminal' and 'A German Requiem') (Penguin Crime/Mystery) (Paperback)
I was introduced to Philip Kerr's book "Berlin Noir" by my eldest son, an avid reader who is always willing to share a good read with his Dad. The style of the book represents a refreshing departure for me in that my preferred choice of reading matter is invariably non-fictional and factual. I have been totally absorbed by the historical context of "Berlin Noir" and the work of the main character,one Bernhard Gunther, in a Germany on the brink of war and so heavily influenced by the all pervasive philosophy of National Socialism.

The three books making up "Berlin Noir" are all fast moving and have kept me awake at night impatiently wanting to discover the outcomes of Bernhard Gunther's investigations. I have always been passionately interested in modern history and have really enjoyed the ways in which Philip Kerr has interwoven psychological, geographical and political elements into the life work of a private investigator. The author demonstrates a rather unnerving and discomforting skill of integrating the reader into situations which become "normal" in an "everyday" and "today" sense, leaving the reader asking the question "How would I have behaved in this situation?"

The book has left me urgently wanting to move on to the following two books by Philip Kerr - "The One From The Other" and "The Quiet Flame". I have also found myself wanting to return to Berlin to explore this remarkable city with fresh eyes.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At Least As Good As Chandler, 25 July 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Berlin Noir ('March Violets', 'The Pale Criminal' and 'A German Requiem') (Penguin Crime/Mystery) (Paperback)
Picked up this book while browsing in a book store, being a big fan of Chandler and Ellroy etc. it was immediately appealling and proved exceptional, couldn't put it down. An excellent complilation, you really get to know the main character and the research into Berlin life and the rise and effects of the Nazis (appears) very well researched and is convincing. Berlin Requiem starts with a gap of over six with the war over and you are desperate to find out how the anti-Nazi of the early stories (pre-war years) survived. Each of the three story lines are excellently complex yet sufficiently explained to be plausable and certainly based on realistic circumstances. With Himmler dabbling in the black arts and the infighting within the Nazi party, and the Soviets getting the cold war off to a good start in post war Vienna, the plots put major figure heads at the centre where most authors would have feared to tred. I hope the authors other works are as good as I will be buying more. An excellent holiday or travel read, but be aware you may not be much company!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars forgton your German history?, 22 Mar. 2008
By 
Peter Anderson "beef the reader" (milton of campsie, scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Berlin Noir ('March Violets', 'The Pale Criminal' and 'A German Requiem') (Penguin Crime/Mystery) (Paperback)
Supberb triple thirllers,If you have forgoten your german history 1937 onwards.This three books will remind you. Wonderfull detective stories interwoven with true facts from that terrible era from before ,during and after the second world war. Brillant read for teenagers or uni students that dont know much about this time, it might just show them genocide is not just a modern subject. Waiting on amazon delivering the next in the series so as to read them in order. Hurry up amazon.
Peter Anderson Milton of Campsie Scotland
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling, 20 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Berlin Noir ('March Violets', 'The Pale Criminal' and 'A German Requiem') (Penguin Crime/Mystery) (Paperback)
These three chilling detective stories chronicle not only the exploits of our German Chandleresque detective Bernie Gunther but also the rise and fall of the Nazi's, and perhaps most graphically portray the shattering affects this had on German society. I don't mean in any apologist or revisionist sense just a bleak picture of what it was like for the ordinary German not caught up in the fervour of hysterical nationalism, but having to pretend to be!

That is not to say that the actual detective stories themselves are not worth reading in their own right, because they more than stand up to this. But it is the nightmare of living with Gestapo, SS and Kripo henchmen with pretty much a free reign to do what they like whether this is robbery, rape and murder on their own people that has stayed with me now I have finished the trilogy.

Apart from the remarkable setting, Gunther is your archytypal 'Gumshoe' detective. He's smart, tough, streetwise, has a liking for the ladies, the bottle, cigarettes and has a mouth alwayslikely to land him on the wrong end of a back hander! Like most other classic detectives despite his hard boiled hard man exterior he also has a soft and noble side. Whilst not opposed to bumping off a few of life's lower forms he will then risk his own neck to prevent the murder of a prostitute.

I Really enjoyed this trilogy from Kerr, and whilst I need to now read something a little lighter for the good of my own mental health I think I shall return to Herr Gunther's world in the not too distant future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Running out of steam, 18 May 2013
This review is from: Berlin Noir ('March Violets', 'The Pale Criminal' and 'A German Requiem') (Penguin Crime/Mystery) (Paperback)
I really enjoyed March Violets and as a Chandler/Hammett fan I devoured the first of the trilogy and felt I had stumbled upon something fresh and interesting. With a large slice of optimism, I started on The Pale Criminal and started to see a few too many parallels with characters and scenes from Chandler's work which started to give me some doubts whether this was such a good book after all. What spoiled the trilogy beyond any doubt was the third effort - A German Requiem, not so much a nod to The Third Man as a full on head butt with a follow up knee to the groin. I'm not sure whether this story was a tongue in cheek attempt at a homage to The Third Man, but for me it fell flat and showed a lack of originality, yes I understand that both are set in Vienna at the same time using many of the same settings and wrapped up with racketeering, but do we need practically all the ideas from The Third Man to be trotted out? The reference at the film studio to the upcoming visit from Mr Lyndon-Barnes - too cheesy by half and with all the other references made what had started out as a strong opening turned into a fizzer of a book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Let Down in the Middle, 23 Mar. 2009
By 
R. S. Loch "rsloch" (the wilds of Oxfordshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Berlin Noir ('March Violets', 'The Pale Criminal' and 'A German Requiem') (Penguin Crime/Mystery) (Paperback)
Berlin Noir is a collection of the first three (of four) Bernie Gunther novels, March Violets, The Pale Criminal and German Requiem.

The protagonist Gunther goes back and forth from being a Berlin policeman, and a private detective throughout the books investigating crimes, mostly murders, before and after the Second World War. March Violets and The Pale Criminal are set in the Berlin of the mid to late 1930s with the Nazis, and German Requiem in a post war Allied occupied Vienna.

Of the three books, The Pale Criminal, is by far the weakest with everything that happens seeming far too convenient and wrapped up at the end. Of the other two novels I liked March Violets the most probably because in German Requiem Kerr doesn't seem as comfortable with his setting. One nagging doubt you'll have throughout all three books is how one man seems to run into so many historical figures wherever he goes.

This isn't up to Raymond Chandler levels but not far off, let down by a weak middle story.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, shocking, very good, 15 Mar. 2001
By 
Ganime B. Akin (Istanbul, Turkey) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Berlin Noir ('March Violets', 'The Pale Criminal' and 'A German Requiem') (Penguin Crime/Mystery) (Paperback)
Once you start reading you will not be able to put it away. But be ready for unexpected, even shocking events. I was very much moved by Germay's post-war description in a German Requiem. I first borrowed the triology from a library. Then I wanted my husband to read it also and bought it from Amazon. Buy this, you will not be dissapointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 10 Aug. 2013
By 
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk (Oldham) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Berlin Noir ('March Violets', 'The Pale Criminal' and 'A German Requiem') (Penguin Crime/Mystery) (Paperback)
I bought this book a long time ago - I think it had just come out in paperback. I never read it beyond the first few paragraphs - some books are like that; they attract your attention with a seductive wink and come-on covers but when you open them... well... you're just not in the mood and they go on the shelf. And there they stay. Every now and then you feel you ought to read them but not right now and then, after a while they just become part of the furniture...
Then I read Lehter Station and wanted to read more about the period at the end of the War and discovered that Lo and Behold! I had a copy of a book set just in this period, "A German Requiem" but it was in a trilogy "Berlin Noir"... So I wiped off the dust and turned the faded pages...
"March Violets", the first in the trilogy is Philip Marlowe in Nazi Berlin... No really, it's exactly that. The tone of voice, the characters. Corrupt cops and officials are merely replaced by Gestapo and SS and Kripo. You still have the obligatory film star who uses you for her own ends and you still have the filthy rich industrialist, the preening, manicured male secretary... It's a cliche. The story about a young heiress and her husband being murdered, their house burnt down and the fabulously expensive diamond necklace in the safe being stolen could grace the Hollywood screens without a hiccup - in fact I do believe it has... or something like it. When you travel through "March Violets" you enter the world of deja vue. It does maintain your interest and actually gets a bit gripping. There are twists and turns and the bit of spiciness thrown in that only Nazi Germany can provide. It's entertaining. I saw the "solution" coming about half-way but I don't know if that means I should be setting up an office in some backstreet somewhere in Manchester's Canal district, stuck between the gay bars and Chinatown, or whether that means Kerr's good at leading the "observant" reader down the right road.
I'm looking for a cheap office right now.
"The Pale Criminal" starts with a grubby little blackmail plot and the promise of bigger things to come. The humour comes thick and fast and initially appears less cynical than in "March Violets" - it's also less like a pastiche of Chandler or Spillane. Very quickly we become involved in the investigation of a series of sex murders (they were not uncommon in the Germany of the inter-War era) and wander around some very unsavoury territory. There are interesting analogies drawn between the deviant behaviour of a sex murder and of the actions of the Nazi Party. Indeed, the disturbed world of the night acts as a mirror to the equally disturbed reality that is Nazi Germany and tension is upheld throughout, the hunt for the killer taking place against the sinisterly-compared Munich Crisis; the innocents are being stalked! I found "The Pale Criminal" a really interesting read with a twist I really didn't expect. I could hardly put it down.
And so we come to "A German Requiem" and that's a completely different picture. The black hole has collapsed and pulled everything apart in its wake. A new world has been made; prostitution and living off one's wits are the name of the game - survival. People exist amongst the ruins; ruined cities, ruined lives. In a world where over sixty million died what is the value of one more life? Barely eking out an existence, Gunther is hired by a former colleague from the Kripo who has been accused of murdering an American officer. The story is largely set in Vienna and at times made me think of "The Third Man"; the International Military Police, illicit dealing in cigarettes and penicillin, the cemetery, fairground and Big Wheel. This is a world of the night, even in the daytime. Nothing is what it seems because no-one is innocent, everyone has a past (and present) to hide. In the shady nightclubs, amongst the ruins, along the railway tracks the corpses stare out at the survivors and those hiding from the truth. I think Kerr's done a tremendous job of trying to recreate the atmosphere of post-War Berlin and Vienna and Gunther turns out to be a very interesting character... a German with a conscience.
I really need to read "The Third Man" now...
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