Tuesday, September 29, 2009

IF THE DEAD RISE NOT: PHILIP KERR



If The Dead Rise Not is the sixth novel in Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series. The story begins in Berlin 1934, where the Nazis are beginning to prepare for the 1936 Olympics, which were awarded to the Weimar Republic before Hitler's seizure of power.
Bernie, no longer able to tolerate Goering's police purges, has resigned as a homicide detective in the Criminal Police and has become a house detective at the fashionable Adlon Hotel.
The Nazis in just eighteen months have brought about some unpleasant changes including the expulsion of Jews from sporting organisations.
[ Gretel Bergmann was an example of this policy and a film has been made about this case.]


'Jews will be stripped of German citizenship and forbidden to marry or have sexual relations with pure Germans. Employment in any public capacity will be completely forbidden, and property ownership restricted. Crossbreeds will be obliged to to apply to the Leader himself for reclassification or Aryanization.'

'Jesus Christ.'

Otto Schuchhardt smiled. 'Oh, I very much doubt that he'd be in with any sort of chance for reclassification. Not unless you could prove his heavenly father was German.'

The body of a German business man is discovered at the Hotel Adlon in suspicious circumstances, and Bernie is also asked by an ex-colleague to investigate the death of a boxer who turns out to be Jewish. These activities involve Bernie with two of the hotel guests; Max Reles an American gangster, with a secret, who intends to obtain a share of the vast amount of money the Nazis are spending on the Olympics in order to showcase the New Germany; and the beautiful Noreen Charalambides [nee Eisner], a wealthy Jewish American left wing journalist, who intends to write an article to encourage a boycott of these Nazi games by the American Olympic committee.
Bernie's investigations of a criminal and romantic kind lead to a kind of stalemate, and the story flashes forward twenty years to pre-revolution Cuba, the country Bernie fled to from Argentina at the end of A Quiet Flame.
In Cuba Bernie finds new problems, new tyrants and new villains as we move towards the novel's gripping climax.

'Please, senor. At least read it,eh? If only because the man who wrote [Fidel Castro] it is currently languishing in the Model prison of the Isles of Pines.'

'Hitler wrote a rather longer book, in Landsberg Prison, I didn't read that one, either.'

I love the Bernie Gunther series and the books seem to be getting better and better. 'If The Dead Rise Not' brilliantly captures the menacing atmosphere of brutal regimes on two continents and uses Bernie's quick wit as a weapon to highlight their evil. The series is not just a polemic against the Nazis, there are good and bad in all races and a book that includes mentions of Hermann Goering, Meyer Lansky and Fulgencio Batista has a head start in proving that thesis.

The sharp first person narrative of 'If The Dead Rise Not' appears to pay tribute to Raymond Chandler, as Bernie and Noreen reprise a scene from The Big Sleep, Dashiell Hammett and Kenneth Fearing, while still retaining the unique qualities that have earned the series so much praise, and three nominations for the CWA Ellis Peters Award.
Sometimes a series can become stale because the author writes the same book over and over again, but Philip Kerr by moving the action first to Argentina, and now Cuba has avoided this situation and given Bernie Gunther and his wisecracks fresh impetus.

I really enjoyed reading this novel which features great characters [real and fictional], an intriguing plot and is full of clever lines and tense situations. Philip Kerr has given us in Bernie Gunther a flawed hero that we can believe in, because compromise is the only way to survive in his cruel world, in which 'the truly innocent are dead', and this makes for some great books.
In my opinion 'If The Dead Rise Not' must be one of the front runners on this year's Ellis Peters shortlist.
I will be posting an interview with the author Philip Kerr during the next two weeks.

The Capitolio was built in the style of the United States Capitol in Washington DC, by the dictator Machado, but it was too big for an island the size of Cuba. It would have been too big for an island the size of Australia.

Thanks to publishers Quercus and Maxine of Petrona for the book.

6 Comments:

Blogger Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks for this review, Uriah! You've gotten me interested in Phillip Kerr. I hadn't really plunged into his novels before, but this sounds like a winner.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

You are welcome Margot.
I had read the first three in the series back in the early 1990s. I re-read and reviewed number one March Violets earlier this year and was very pleased that Philip brought Bernie back after such a long gap.

I am going to try and read all the Ellis Peters contenders before 29 October and pick my winner. If my International Dagger performance is anything to go by, don't bet on my choice.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

I hadn't paid any attention to this series, but your review has made me start tracking down a copy of March Violets. Thanks!

9:57 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Cathy.
Humour is a devastating weapon and Kerr uses it with great skill. March Violets can be read in the omnibus edition Berlin Noir along with numbers 2 and 3 The Pale Criminal and A German Requiem, if you can't find it in the single volume.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Maxine said...

Insightful review, as ever, Norm/Uriah. I wonder how many other people picked up on the Chandler hommage? Not many, I imagine.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Maxine, I know I am good ;o) but I am certain anyone reading the book who had seen the The Big Sleep would recognize the brilliant Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall scene.
You don't think some people, MSM for instance, would review a book without reading it do you? Sorry I am being naughty again. :o)

3:31 PM  

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