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Customer Review

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read for Gunther fans, but on the edge of becoming formulaic, 16 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: A Man Without Breath (Bernie Gunther) (Hardcover)
I have all the Gunther novels, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I have been waiting for this one to come out for some time to catch up with the latest instalment.

It's a good tale, for sure. That said, I found this one seemed to take much longer to warm up, and sometimes seemed a little disjointed, before spluttering to a rather unsatisfactory end. I don't know, perhaps it was me, but I found myself wondering whether the author had somewhat lost his way somewhere around the middle of the book. Make no mistake, it is a good story well told, but it was missing the edge of the previous books: looking back, I suppose the signs of this were there in the previous novel, 'Prague Fatale', but the story held together well enough to get us to the end. Its difficult to put my finger on what was wrong: perhaps I've read all the one-liners once too often, or Kerr is just trying too hard to capture that Chandleresque turn of phrase. While reading previous books, I felt that Kerr captured the spirit of his locations: when reading about Gunther in Argentina, you could almost feel the heat, while his capturing of 1930's Berlin transported you across space and time so that when you put down the book, you were almost surprised to find yourself in a living room in Dartford over 70 years ahead of where you felt you were. Whilst there are flashes of that in A Man Without Breath, it is just not the same - I can't help but feel he fails to completely capture the bleak desperation of the Russian Front in 1943 in the same way.

It's still a good book, and I'd recommend it either as a stand alone read, or, for fans of Bernie Gunther, as the continuation of a journey. I am somewhat saddened that I can't give it 5 stars because I greatly appreciate Kerr's efforts, but the object of reviewing a book is to review what is at hand rather than what went before, and to do so honestly. I read Kerr's book 'Esau' long before I read any of the Gunther novels, and in a way was reminded of that - a good story which became bogged down in minor details and pointless verbosity. I wonder whether 100 fewer pages would have helped avoid the sense that the book continued beyond the point at which the story should have finished?

For all that, I shall still await the next installment of Bernhard Gunther's life, assuming there will be another. It is not a bad book, and I trust that the crisp, sharp edge of earlier books in the series will once again return. I sincerely hope so, for Kerr deserves much praise for the series as a whole. I am interested to discover whether other fans of Gunther feel the same way as I?
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Apr 2013 15:50:02 BDT
NickR says:
I agree, 100 pages too long, which is probably why it goes off the boil towards the end.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Apr 2013 10:42:27 BDT
R. Lloyd says:
I agree too. The first Bernie Gunther novel that's started to feel a bit repetitive, flabby and predictable. Pretty clear from halfway through who the murderer was. The sudden appearance of a beautiful pathologist just to provide Bernie with his obligatory dose of Bond-style sex action felt totally gratuitous. The catalogue of leading historical nazis that Bernie has met and cheeked grows more and more improbably longer. And so on.
I really love Phillip Kerr's writing, and I love his hero / antihero. So on some levels I still enjoyed this book. But I believe the saying these days is 'jumped the shark'? The point at which a successful fictional creation just starts to go too far and becomes a pastiche of itself...
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