Top positive review
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A Quiet Masterpiece
on 7 April 2008
Fans of Philip Kerr's original trilogy of Bernie Gunther books were delighted in 206 when after a gap of 16 years, a fourth volume `The One from the Other' hit the bookshops in July.
Barely 15 months on and there's a very welcome fifth book in the series. And while reading it, it becomes clear that there are plans for at least one more volume from `the thinking reader's thriller writer'
Ex-Berlin homicide detective and private eye Bernie Gunther finds himself in Buenos Aries, Argentina in 1950 (read `The One From The Other' to find out why), a time when Juan Peron's government offered a safe haven for Nazi war criminals. The action switches largely between Berlin in 1932 - and Bernie's last abandoned case as a police officer when the mutilated body of a spastic teenage girl is discovered - and Buenos Aires in 1950 where he is invited to investigate a case with striking similarities.
What appears to be a simple case turns out to be anything but; twist is piled upon twist, and Gunther unwraps layer after layer until the final shocking revelation is revealed.
Once again, this is peopled with real personalities - Juan and Evita Peron, Adolf Eichmann, Joseph Mengele etc. - and blends fiction with conjecture based upon historical fact. It includes a chilling portrait of the man who was third ranked in the SS at the end of World War II, General Hans Kammler; perhaps the most heinous SS officer never to be caught.
Bernie Gunther is a great creation, never afraid to poke his nose into things he's been warned to keep out of. He's brave, principled and wisecracking - one character remarks he has a 'smart mouth' - and that gets him into trouble. He's a throwback to the golden age of Hammett and Chandler.
This intelligent, gripping thriller is richly detailed and tightly plotted. It has a moving ending (I won't give it away) that cries out for the sequel that will inevitably follow. All in all, this is top stuff.
So why not five stars? I'm benchmarking this against the best of Philip Kerr and it's not quite up there with 'A Philosophical Investigation' and one or two others.
But unfortunately, I have to agree with a previous reviewer's comments; this novel contains a whole slew of typos. Who the heck is responsible for proof-reading these books, and can I please have his job?