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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Pawn in the Great Powers' Chess Game
In BERLIN NOIR, the trilogy that begins Kerr's Bernie Gunther series, we are introduced to Bernie Gunther in the pre-war Nazi-era Berlin, and then we see him again shortly after the war ends. Fifteen years, and many other (non-Bernie) books later, Bernie Gunther returned in THE ONE FROM THE OTHER, set in 1949. The next book, A QUIET FLAME, finds Bernie on the run in...
Published on 15 Dec 2010 by Maine Colonial

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much history, not enough detection
Ever since Hammet and Chandler, we've become used to the conventions of the hard-boiled private detective novel: a cynical but basically decent individual is trapped between powerful enemies, but wisecracks his battered way to some kind of resolution through a labyrinthine plot. The originality of Kerr's early Bernie Gunther novels was their setting, in 1930s Germany,...
Published on 30 Jun 2011 by John Fletcher


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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Pawn in the Great Powers' Chess Game, 15 Dec 2010
By 
Maine Colonial (Maine, United States) - See all my reviews
In BERLIN NOIR, the trilogy that begins Kerr's Bernie Gunther series, we are introduced to Bernie Gunther in the pre-war Nazi-era Berlin, and then we see him again shortly after the war ends. Fifteen years, and many other (non-Bernie) books later, Bernie Gunther returned in THE ONE FROM THE OTHER, set in 1949. The next book, A QUIET FLAME, finds Bernie on the run in 1950 and living in Argentina under an assumed name.

These first five novels in the Bernie Gunther saga made me wonder about Bernie in the years before the Nazi assumption of power and what Bernie was doing during the war. In the sixth novel in the series, 2009's IF THE DEAD RISE NOT, we learn the answer to the first question. The book begins with Bernie having left Argentina for pre-Castro Havana, but it then flashes back to Berlin in 1934, as the Nazis consolidate their power.

Now, in FIELD GREY, the seventh novel in the series, we see what Bernie did during the war, during the chaos of the immediate postwar period and in 1954, when he is spirited back to Europe and made a pawn in the deadly espionage games of the various spy agencies engaged in the Cold War.

In recent years, long-secret documents about Russian activities during WW2 and the actions of the East German secret police before the fall of the Berlin Wall have been made available. It is apparent that Philip Kerr has some familiarity with the the history revealed by those documents. This book is packed with information about so-called police actions in eastern Europe during the war, the treatment of German POWs by the Russians, the Russians' treatment of their own returning POWs and the machinations of the victorious Allied powers as the joy of defeating the Nazis gave way to the Cold War struggle for advantage in Europe, particularly in Germany.

Bernie Gunther is in the thick of these historic events. He is an intelligence officer and part of a police battalion during the war, a prisoner of the Soviets in several nightmarish camps, imprisoned again in France, and then a reluctant field agent for both the French and US intelligence services.

A thread running through all of Bernie's history in FIELD GREY is Erich Mielke, a communist Bernie saved from death by a Nazi gang in the 1930s. Mielke is then accused of murdering two Berlin policemen and flees to the Soviet Union. He later crosses paths with Bernie when he is interned in southern France after the Spanish Civil War, again when Bernie is a POW and yet again when Bernie has been put into play by the CIA in 1954.

Although the product description of FIELD GREY would have you believe that the book is about Bernie's mission to capture a French war criminal called Edgard de Boudel, that is a very minor part of the book's plot. The plot is much more about the years-long chess game between Bernie and Mielke, and Bernie's role as a pawn in the ambitions of one power after another: the Nazis (particularly Reinhard Heydrich), the Soviets and the intelligence services of France, the Soviet Union and the US.

The story is enthralling, though I have to deduct one star for the confusing way the story jumps from one time and place to another, and for some lack of clarity in the description of the double- and triple-crossing of the various players in the spy games. Anyone who has enjoyed the previous Bernie Gunther books and who has an interest in the historical events described should find this a worthwhile read despite these flaws. I'm looking forward to finding out more of Bernie's history.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bernie Gunther, unreliable narrator, 18 Oct 2010
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This is Philip Kerr's 7th outing in the continuing story of Bernie Gunther and delves into his past, "What Bernie did in WW2",a question always in the background in the previous 5 volumes. But first a minor mystery, the plot summary given above, and that printed on the flyleaf of this the UK 1ST edition is not the novel that you will read. No prison on the Isle of Pines, Cuba, certainly no Fidel Castro nor a French intelligence officer named Thibaud. Does this refer to a rejected early draft? Or perhaps to a different version to be published elsewhere? Who knows?
Putting the foregoing aside, this is in fact a tremendous furious page turning read. The first two thirds delve into Bernie's unwilling service with the SD on the Eastern Front, as he tells his story to various CIA and SDECE Intelligence officers, and is drawn equally unwillingly into a current 1954 operation targeting a senior STASI Officer in the DDR.
However, Bernie as ever, is a born survivor, and tells his interrogators ( and us the readers ) only an edited version of his perceived subjective truth, and Bernie still keeps some essential details hidden from all concerned.

We have followed Bernie's progress from Berlin in 1931 to the very different Berlin of 1954. He's now 58 years old and perhaps can at last escape his past.
But I hope not, there's still some life in the old bull from the Alex. Happy wil be the day when we meet him yet again.

An excellent read, thoroughly and highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much history, not enough detection, 30 Jun 2011
Ever since Hammet and Chandler, we've become used to the conventions of the hard-boiled private detective novel: a cynical but basically decent individual is trapped between powerful enemies, but wisecracks his battered way to some kind of resolution through a labyrinthine plot. The originality of Kerr's early Bernie Gunther novels was their setting, in 1930s Germany, with evil villains and moral dilemmas which would have made Philip Marlowe's head explode. Later novels picked up Bernie after the War, facing new dilemmas in Latin America. "Field Grey" is Kerr's attempt to answer the inevitable question: "what did you do in the war Bernie?" And that's where things start to go wrong. The story is told as a series of flashbacks from 1954, but covering mostly the period 1940-46. Rather a lot went on in those years, and so the ostensible plot of the novel has to be put on hold periodically while characters lecture each other on the history of that time. Most of these conversations take place in prison: indeed, Bernie spends much of the book in prisons of one kind or another, and much of the first hundred pages being kidnapped and beaten up by various agencies. It becomes clear very quickly that at least some of these stories are unreliable, tailored to interest whoever is currently imprisoning him, and the violent twists and turns of the plot, as Bernie tries to play different parties off against each other provide more confusion than real suspense. The ending (and several of the twists in the plot for that matter) is very hard to swallow. A pity, because in this long and complicated story is a shorter and better one trying to get out: the homecoming of a flawed but decent man to a country uneasily at peace, which he does not recognise, and which is full of new dangers for him. That would have made a better book, and a bit more detection, in place of passive suffering, would have done no harm either.
As it is, Kerr wants us to know he has done his research, but his touch is unsure in many areas, even if he has conscientiously boned up on recent historical studies. He's particularly unsure of himself on the French side, and there is no indication from the sources quoted that he reads French - a major handicap if you're writing about France during that period. By contrast, Kerr has a real sense of Berlin and a sure grasp of daily life in difficult circumstances. He would have done better to stick to that, and leave history to the professionals.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A trifle confusing, 4 April 2013
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This review is from: Field Grey: A Bernie Gunther Novel (Bernie Gunther Mystery 7) (Kindle Edition)
This is a great story, taking Bernie from Cuba to the US and then Germany where he is interned for war crimes. He describes unter interrogation his times in France, Russia, the Ukraine and in the developing East Berlin. great history and facts though the story becomes confusing and I have deducted a star because there is no real clarity in respect for his working for the Ami's or in turn the East Germans. Bernie jumped around so many places it all became a little confusing. It would of been good to know just what DID HAPPEN in the end!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Over Contrived, 3 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Field Grey: A Bernie Gunther Novel (Bernie Gunther Mystery 7) (Kindle Edition)
Having been a longtime fan of the Bernie Gunther series, this contrived nonsense is a sad let down.

A specific example:
BG is at a train statin (post WW2) that is welcoming approx 1000 German POW's being returned from Russian labour camps. BG's objective is to identify a certain individual for the CIA. Amongst the 100's waiting for the POW's are some relatives holding cards, seeking information on lost relatives.
BG later notices a name on the POW list that he also noted on one of the cards. BG is curious why Mother X (card holder) and Soldier X (POW) did not recognise each other at the station.
Turns out that the POW (ex concentration camp commander seeking to avoid recognition) had adopted the identity of Soldier X (at random, from amongst 100's of thousands captured and interned by the Soviets) and Mother X just happened to be there and BG just happened to note the name. But there's more:
When the mystery POW is presented to BG, it just happens to be a major character (and enemy of BG) from earlier in the book. (not even the person he was at the station to identify)
Simply, nonsense like this ('winning the lottery odds' coincidences) just insult the intelligence of the reader.

BG has always been about being an amazing character who rubs shoulders with the entire who's who of the Nazi organisation.
However, the plot of Field Grey revolves around a long running (from early 30's to mid 50's) experiences and acquaintances of BG that just happen to make BG uniquely capable and invaluable to the CIA to turning a key Stasi officer. The plot jumps back and forth in time, through BG's experiences of the extermination of Jews in Poland and Ukraine, his capture and escape from the Soviet Gulag (yeah, sure), etc etc.

I give this book three stars for the well written evocation of pre-war Berlin society and politics, well-researched history and (as ever) the wonderful BG character.

But otherwise this over-contrived effort is a poor (and barely believable) installment in the BG series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lost the plot, 26 May 2013
This review is from: Field Grey: A Bernie Gunther Novel (Bernie Gunther Mystery 7) (Kindle Edition)
It's a strange book where the 'blurb' on the back doesn't come into play until page 400. The first 300 pages are readable but there are so many changes of year and place that it becomes impossible to follow.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 11 Mar 2013
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Mr. Timothy Smith "book vulture" (Lincoln, UK) - See all my reviews
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A right riveting read. All the books in the series are fantastic and I eagerly await the next installment. Bernie Gunther rocks!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Field Grey, 25 Feb 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Field Grey: A Bernie Gunther Novel (Bernie Gunther Mystery 7) (Kindle Edition)
Not only is this a brilliant addition to the Bernie Gunther novels, but it demonstrates an author who is really in control of this complicated plot, as he weaves a story which begins in Cuba in 1954, ends in Berlin the same year and, along the way, takes us to Berlin in the thirties, Paris in 1940, Russian prison camps nearing the end of the war and through various prisons and interrogations. In fact, much of the plot is told through interrogations, as Gunther finds himself in American hands. Eventually, it transpires that his American 'hosts' are interested in Erich Mielke, who Bernie first met as a young man in 1931. He saves Mielke from a beating, or worse, at the hands of Nazi thugs, only to find the young communist is later accused of killing two policemen.

In fact, it seems that Erich Mielke has a lot of people interested in him throughout his career; from Heydrich, who sends Gunther to Paris in 1940 to try to track him down, to the American interrogators who hope that Bernie can help them find Mielke, who is now the deputy chief of the Stasi. As Gunther recounts his history with Mielke we learn more about his time in the war, including his time in a Russian prison camp. This novel works on so many levels - as a great Bernie Gunther book, first and foremost, a wonderful war thriller and a brilliant Cold War spy novel. Absolutely fantastic - this series gets better and better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of Details, 14 Jan 2012
Also published under the title "Field Gray"

Book 7 in the Bernie Gunther mystery series

In this story Bernie Gunther reflects on his past, the good the bad and the ugly. Trying to outrun his shadows has resulted in a lonely life; his personal and political associations have left him a man with a trouble conscience. This is one of Mr. Kerr's darkest and most complex novels I have read so far.

In the prologue, set in 1950s Cuba, Bernie is living the good life under an assumed name when his life is chattered once again by a local policeman who questions his true identity. In haste, Bernie attempts to leave Cuba by boat however he is intercepted by an American patrol and is taken to Guantanamo Bay for interrogation by the CIA. The intense questioning forces Bernie to eventually reveal his past, his war time activities under Heydrich as an SS field officer and his pre-war association with Eric Mielke prove to be a gold mine of information for his interrogators. He is eventually flown to Berlin to face the music and is given a simple choice: work for the French intelligence or hang for murder. His task is to meet POW's returning to Germany and finger one particular French war criminal he is familiar with. With this we learn of another period in Bernie's past as a German POW in Russia and how it comes back to haunt him.

This seventh novel is set in Cuba, a Soviet POW camp, Paris and Berlin, it is a fast-paced and quick-action thriller. Bernie is portrayed as a pawn in a deadly game of espionage by various spy agencies of the Cold War era. The chapters are peppered with strategically placed flashbacks from 1931 to 1946, including events that occurred during the actual war years (all the other books took place before or after the war). Mr. Kerr paints a powerful picture of the struggles of the 1930s, the war and divided post-war Berlin.

"Field Gray" is a brilliantly written novel full of details, a mix of fast-talking, hardboiled crime and historical events delivered in Gunther's ironically humorous monologue. I am a huge fan of Mr. Kerr's ability to stir one's emotions page after page and can only imagine what it must have been like to have lived during such a troubled time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and compelling, 10 Nov 2011
Phillip Kerr has really created something special in Bernie Gunther. In so many ways he is the cliched, smart mouthed private dick. But the high definition WW2 setting Kerr creates just etches him perfectly in all his world weary glory.

This episode was perhaps a little over long and disjionted in my opinion with the time frame leaping about like a crazed frog as Bernie is passed from pillar to post following arrest in Cuba and is forced to recall incidents from his war time experiences to various allied interegators. Despite that there was plenty to saviour and the usual twist in the tail we have come to expect. But as as is usual for me it is the grim and terrifying world of the political extremist that has stayed with me now I have put the book down. Also no other author I have read has ever made me understand the suffering of the common German man in all the atrocity of the war. Yes Hitler and the Nazi's chose the path but many innocent Germans were as much a victem of what followed as the rest of the world.

Don't get me wrong Kerr is no right wing re-writer of history or Nazi apologist (far from it) but he reminds us that Germany was by no means the only country commiting mass murder under the leadership of a despot at this time. He also reminds us of some of the atrocities the allies overlooked Stalin commit for the sake of winning the war.

Its detailed, complex and utterly convincing writing that will do very well till they actually invent a time machine that can take us back there. Not that you want to go in person!
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