Top critical review
30 April 2018
The 4th Bernie Gunther novel, written 15 years after the first Berlin Noir trilogy, exposes the detective to a major bruising. The narrative opens up fairly briskly to a lurid litany of Nazi atrocities that threaten to swamp the novel and belittle the hero against an ugly backdrop of historical forces over which he has no control, taking up Kerr's own comment that 'he can't cross the floor without getting paint on his shoes.' Gunther sets up a new office in Vienna and at once becomes a pawn in the vicious anti-Semitism and the Zionist reprisals that cast a malevolent shadow over the storyline.
The role of the CIA and ODESSA in setting up false incriminations is very neatly contrived. Gunther's confession that he 'wasn't much of a detective' is borne out by his gullibility and his strange assertion that 'it's dangerous to believe in anything too much, especially in Germany.' To deal with it, in comes the humour, glazed-over, flabby patter that gets mired in its own overworked cleverness, especially with similes. One goes: 'He was as thin as a trail of s*** from a neglected goldfish.' Where did Kerr dredge up that clunker? It's quite a struggle for the reader at times, but once Gunther's real acumen and courage as a detective finally kick in at the end, you know it's time to move on to the next (Argentinian) chapter. Bon voyage, Herr Gunther and RIP, Mr Kerr.