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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gunther in Katyn Wood
The 9th Bernie Gunther tale is one of the better ones. The author again places his roguish Berlin detective in a real historical situation, with real historical characters. This limits the degree of surprise [Gunther can't affect the outcome of the Battle of Kursk etc.] and it does mean that the murders the policeman tackles are but drops in an ocean of trouble. On this...
Published 24 months ago by gerardpeter

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25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bernie can do better.
Kerr's Bernie Gunther series is becoming increasingly hit and miss, and I'm afraid that this book, though quite enjoyable, was overlong and had some incredibly creaky sections. As others have suggested, the romantic interest is little short of risible, there purely to add a little colour and variety to the story: in terms of plot, it has no relevance whatsoever, and is...
Published on 20 April 2013 by S. J. Williams


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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gunther in Katyn Wood, 14 July 2013
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The 9th Bernie Gunther tale is one of the better ones. The author again places his roguish Berlin detective in a real historical situation, with real historical characters. This limits the degree of surprise [Gunther can't affect the outcome of the Battle of Kursk etc.] and it does mean that the murders the policeman tackles are but drops in an ocean of trouble. On this occasion he is sent to Katyn, where we know now the Soviet secret police massacred Polish army officers. The bodies have just been discovered [1943]. Goebbels wants to publicise the atrocity and divide the Allies. Bernie is given the task of seeing this goes to plan.
He wonders what the point is anyway given that Nazi atrocities in the same area are much worse. He finds himself caught between the various agencies of the Nazi state each pursuing their own agenda. Plots are being hatched against the Leader. The Red Army begins what will be its long march to Berlin. Meanwhile people are turning up with their throats cut. Needless to say, Gunther gets to the bottom of it as well as having a brief fling with a forensic pathologist, as one does.
Kerr gets a lot of authentic detail of the period in. He also is very informative about the true history, including very recent research by Paul Preston The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain.
His hero does very much read like a US private investigator of the 50s, and at times his humorous asides don't quite fit. There remains, too, the problem of Bernie himself - while working for the Third Reich he has to disavow everything it stood for, and this stretches plausibility. But he's still a good read.
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25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bernie can do better., 20 April 2013
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S. J. Williams "stevejw2" (Leeds, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Man Without Breath (Bernie Gunther) (Hardcover)
Kerr's Bernie Gunther series is becoming increasingly hit and miss, and I'm afraid that this book, though quite enjoyable, was overlong and had some incredibly creaky sections. As others have suggested, the romantic interest is little short of risible, there purely to add a little colour and variety to the story: in terms of plot, it has no relevance whatsoever, and is utterly mechanical. One minute Bernie lusts, then is in love, then isn't, then feels bereft ...... I just don't care!

The other really weak section is the solution, which is driven only by the need to keep Bernie alive rather than any function of the plot or character - one minute all is lost then suddenly all is OK. Ta daaaaaa!

I thought 'Prague Fatale' something of a return to form, but I think Kerr's increasing reliance on big stories and big figures from Nazi Germany and WW2, as here with the Katyn Massacre, is a mistake as it weighs down the plot with historical apparatus at the expense of a really interesting thriller. Here, there's enough to keep the flagging fan of the series turning the pages, but another couple like this would turn an interesting and innovative series into pot boiling airport fodder. That would be a real pity: better to kill Bernie off than become so formulaic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I like Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther books, 30 Aug. 2014
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I like Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther books. The plots do tend to be the same somewhat after a few books, but taking a break between books to read someone else, I find, refreshes the brain. The background research is phenomenal - if true. I don't know if there was a street called Roterkreuzstrasse in German-occupied Smolensk, but the casual mention in passing certainly lends a shot of realism.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I always turn to Bernie Gunther..., 14 Mar. 2014
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...when I want a good,engrossing,and informative read.The whole series is well worth anyone's time,and I think,with just the one exception(the one before this,Prague Fatale--not bad,but rather cheekily "borrowed" from Agatha Christie--and the author freely admitted it!) they get better.Well up to standard,the new Bernie Gunther is a yearly event I anticipate anxiously.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 1 Oct. 2013
This review is from: A Man Without Breath (Bernie Gunther) (Hardcover)
Book 9, in the Bernard Gunther Mystery

It can get enough of this author's wonderful imagination. His novels although in good part fiction have a chilling authenticity to them. Each story is based on actual events that happened during the horrible years of the Nazi Germany. Through his words he brings back to life the monsters who committed evil acts against humanity.

The year is 1943, Bernie working for the German War Crimes Bureau is sent to Smolensk to bring light on the unsettling reports of a mass grave found in Katyn Forest, a wolf has unearth human remains validating the claim. Finding the truth is not always what the "High Muck-a- Mucks" want to hear....and Bernie will soon be caught in very difficult situations and scarcely escaping the noose......(Short and sweet summary to pique your interest, a most captivating read)

With skills this novel set the scene of the Russian massacre of Polish officers and resuscitates German leaders to make a very grimly and realistic plot. This layered historical novel and murder mystery starts as dramatically as it ends and offers startling revelations about the life under the Third Reich. This is an engrossing story that examines the brutality at its most horrific and smoothly portrays the despicable inner circle of a regime. It further explores what Mr. Kerr's expertly excels in: portraying the complex moral dilemmas of an immoral society and this from Bernie's point of views. This installment is a page turner and a great addition to a very interesting series.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book in the Gunther series..., 23 Mar. 2013
By 
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Man Without Breath (Bernie Gunther) (Hardcover)
I'm writing a review of Philip Kerr's newest novel in his Bernie Gunther series, "A Man Without Breath". I'm going to compare it mainly to the previous books in the series, since most people reading this review will be long-time Kerr readers. However, it's good to note that NEW readers of the series can begin with basically any of the books as Kerr doesn't write them in chronological order; the times he writes about are 1930's Berlin way up to 1950's South America. This book is set in Russia in 1943, but the next one could be set in, say, late 1940's Baghdad! It is definitely not a "Spoiler" to say that Bernie Gunther survives this book!

In "Breath", Philip Kerr looks at the Katyn Wood massacre and the attendant coverups/exposures. Basically, in 1940, 20,000 members of the Polish Army and members of the intelligencia were "disappeared". The country of Poland had been invaded and divvied up between the Germans from the west and the Soviets from the east. Germany and the Soviet Union had signed a "friendship" treaty in August, 1939. This paved the way for the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. The Soviets came in and soon Poland was divided between the two dictatorships. In June of 1941, the treaty was broken as the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. The Germans seized and held the area around Smolensk in their drive east and held the town and surrounding area until Fall 1943.

In spring of 1943, several large graves of bodies was discovered by the Germans near the town of Katyn. Eventually, after the digging up was complete, roughly 22,000 bodies of missing Polish officers were found. And even though they had been killed by German weaponry, the accepted murderers were the Soviets, who had occupied this area before the Germans had taken over. As the news of the bodies hit the world press, each side blamed the others for the murders. Now the search for who was responsible began. (In another non-Spoiler, I'll reveal that the Soviets did it, though they didn't formally admit it until the 1990's.)

And here's where Bernie Gunther, former "bull" in the Berlin Police Department, working out of "the Alex" enters the story, courtesy of Philip Kerr. Since he left "the Alex" right before WW2, he'd been a private detective and hotel detective at the Hotel Adlon (and whatever else Philip Kerr will eventually think up for his creation), and also an aide to Reinhard Heydrich in the SS and other murky policing positions, helping some pretty murky characters. Bernie's politics are described as anti-Nazi and "Breath" gives him the opportunity to help in some nascent plots to kill Hitler. In spring, 1943, he's asked by his boss, a judge looking at war crimes, to go to Smolensk and look into the identities of the Katyn bodies. It's a little "tricky", he's told; the bodies could be those of the missing Polish soldiers or they could be bodies of, um, Jews who had been the victims of mass murder by the German SS. There'll be a big "reveal" if the bodies are Polish, and a coverup if the bodies are Holocaust victims. So off Bernie goes to Smolensk and the plot begins to thicken with the murders of German soldiers and others in the occupying forces.

Any reader of Philip Kerr should have a good grounding of WW2 history as well as German history. Or access to Wikipedia. Kerr populates his novels with real figures in history, and I think he's probably pretty good about keeping them historically correct. My favorite Philip Kerr/Bernie Gunther books are those early ones set in 1930's Berlin, which are primarily crime novels with a bit of politics thrown in. His later books are set in WW2 and post-war are mostly political thrillers with a bit of policing thrown in. But this book, his latest is complicated in a way most of Kerr's books are. The reader really has to want to stay with the story; this book isn't for readers looking for an easy read. But for longtime followers of Bernie Gunther, it's a very good read.
I hope you enjoy!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 21 Oct. 2013
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Mr. Richard N. Walker "wlkrrch" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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I'm a big fan of Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther thrillers and eagerly anticipated the publication of this latest book. Alas, I just don't think it's up to the standard of the earlier books. Gunther is always most compelling when he is on his 'home patch' in Berlin, but there are other faults with the book. For all his rough edges Gunther has always been essentially on the side of good, and he does things in this book that seem a little too ruthlessly out of character.

Moreover, Kerr's usually bulletproof research has failed him this time. He uses the terms 'Prussia', 'East Prussia' and 'Silesia' like a man who doesn't understand the (fairly important) distinction between them. He gets hopelessly mixed up about where Posen (Poznan) is, for instance, and seems to think prewar Breslau was semi-Polish, when to most observers at the time it would have seemed no more Polish than Berlin or Dresden are now - the fact that it's very much Polish now is irrelevant to the historical setting. These things may not affect the narrative thrust of the plot, but they do puncture the realism of the setting.

As for the plot - too many of its twists and turns seemed a little improbable this time. Not least the blink-and-you'll-miss-it love interest.

In all, it's still a Bernie Gunther novel and still very readable, but it's the weakest in the series so far.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay but not stellar, 3 April 2013
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Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Man Without Breath (Bernie Gunther) (Hardcover)
I'm a great fan of the Bernie Gunther series. I've read all nine books, buying the last few in the first weeks of release. A Man Without Breath is a solid enough addition to Bernie's story, though it is by no means Kerr's best work. Kerr writes with a very strong and engaging hardboiled voice. His characters are vivid, the historical and social contextualisation and sense of place are excellent. And so it is with A Man Without Breath. There are three issues with the story, however, that undermine its telling somewhat. The first is Kerr has tried to cram in too many plotlines and incidents - the Katyn woods massacre and subsequent German propaganda, the plot to kill Hitler by Wehrmacht officers, the Rosenstrasse demonstration by German wives at the arrest of their Jewish husbands, the Gleiwitz incident that started the Second World War, Spanish Fascist experiments on Republican prisoners, several murders that occur whilst Gunther investigates the Katyn massacre, and a love affair. Any two of these would have been sufficient hooks for a strong, tight plot, but the combination of all of them leads to a bit of a muddle. Second, the book is overly long (over 500 pages in hardback) and not just because of the plotlines -- several passages could have been tightened up or deleted as they were largely redundant to the plot. Third, Kerr has Gunther murder a relatively innocent character in cold blood when there were other solutions. Bernie is no saint, but his appeal is that he has a strong moral compass in a corrupt regime and the people he tangles with are mostly monsters; he witnesses, investigates and avenges war crimes, but he doesn't commit them. The action bumped me firmly out of the story and changed my whole view of the character. The effect of these three issues were to deaden the read, which was a shame, as given the place, time and themes of the book this had the potential to be excellent. Regardless, it's an interesting and mostly enjoyable read and I look forward to the next instalment in Bernie's adventures.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I have really enjoyed this series, but..., 4 April 2013
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This one just isnt as good. It seems to get lost somehow; maybe the setting in Smolensk is just too barren. The romantic interest isnt handled as well as usual. Also, this goes backwards - I was expecting to see where Bernie Gunther goes after Cuba, but no this travels back in time.
Close, Mr. Kerr, but no cigar.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 10 July 2014
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Grimly enjoyable.
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A Man Without Breath (Bernie Gunther)
A Man Without Breath (Bernie Gunther) by Philip Kerr (Hardcover - 14 Mar. 2013)
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