Top positive review
7 people found this helpful
Netherworld Nazism in a novel...
on 29 March 2018
'Sometimes the profound silence of that room scared me because it seemed to echo something silent inside myself.' So says the hero of himself in one of those rare, stand-alone confessional moments in this novel, the fifth in the series of Bernie Gunther Nazi detective thrillers. And thrill it does, at least when Kerr isn't trying to quench the quiet flame with his deadpan Chandlerisms about women's bodily curves concealing some pretty mucky misogyny much of the time. The humour falls flatter than a dead pancake. In another sense, it also acts as a shock-absorber designed to set off in high relief some of the truly barbaric atrocities of Argentina's gang of Péronist sponsored Nazi war criminals. Revelations or allegations? Maybe it's a prerogative of the novelist to keep the two mixing and merging ambiguously. Kerr is very good at weaving their criminal psychopathy into the fabric of the country's political machinery. Random torture scenes are scattered across the chapters with hefty doses of sadistic gratification thrown into the mix. The 'something silent' inside Gunther is his, and our, only bolt-hole route away from the evil chicanery of aging German bootboys. Mengele and Eichmann are there to keep the black blood flowing and they forge plausible links across the 20-year flashback sequences to early thirties Berlin and the rise of the Dark Despot. Gunther is there risking life and limb in both time-zones with his astute chess player instincts, but Kerr constantly and cleverly takes the shine off his bravado with his often uncanny escapes from death. The reader is dragged feet first into some of the most obscure niches of Latin American post-war history, the bits that have watchtowers and barbed-wire fences wrapped around in remote border territory. The women in the novel, especially Anna, never quite make it into the realms of desirability or plausibility. You can understand why Evita became a musical after reading this, but elsewhere in these grim pages there is precious little to sing about.