Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Heavy Going, 29 July 2014
This review is from: A Man Without Breath: A Bernie Gunther Novel (Bernie Gunther Mystery 9) (Paperback)
You never quite escape the author in this novel. The heavy hand of research grips your shoulder through almost every page - Philip Kerr, for all his experience, to me seems unable to fillet away the type of ponderous facts that may be interesting to him in a research library but that waylay the unsuspecting reader who attempts to wade through a text that is thick with them.

The "media" are referenced in characters' conversation early on in this novel, and the use of a term that would not become fashionable until long after the Second World War, in which A Man Without Breath is set, is an early warning that much within this novel with jar with anyone who requires their fiction to be, at least to some degree, convincing.

Bernie Gunther, the hard-bitten detective who is the main character in the novel, not only seems preternaturally perfect, in that he almost never makes a wrong move but being anti-Nazi (of course) he wisecracks throughout, with a series of one-liners at the expense of Hitler and the fascist system and the Gestapo - even doing so to high-ranking officials and officers whom he has only just met and around whom he is almost always to be found. It is incredible that this could be put across by the author to be convincing. The Nazis either chuckle or are mildly offended and Bernie cooly goes on his way.

There are also simply too many characters in this novel; too many different, sketchily-drawn, thinly identified individuals who flit in and out of the tale, largely as props to reveal Gunther as a brilliant detective, mind-reader, gleaming sexual conquistador and the shining conscience of Germany.

When Berlin Bertie, on page 375 of the paperback, enunciates the following line to his paramour, it signalled the end for me, "The ultimate goal of the science of criminal detection is a state of complete understanding and of course the liberation of oneself from various states of imprisonment." What? Quaintly, I had thought the principal aim of detectives was to apprehend criminals and have 'em locked up but obviously not.

I managed to get three-quarters of the way through this novel before surrendering to the sheer force of Kerr's ponderous text. Too much like hard work.
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