Sunday, September 28, 2008


I recently read the seventh book in a crime series that should have finished with number six. [ A review of this poor effort might possibly appear on the excellent Euro Crime in the future]

I therefore decided that my next read would be something I was sure would clear my head of the abject nonsense I had just read. I was going to see the film Jar City [adapted from the Arnaldur Indridason novel] in a few days so to avoid confusion I put off starting Indridason's Arctic Chill and read March Violets by Philip Kerr.

First published in 1989 March Violets [the title refers to those people jumping late on the Nazi bandwagon] was the first in the Berlin Noir trilogy featuring Berlin cop turned private investigator Bernie Gunther and was quickly followed by The Pale Criminal in 1990 and A German Requiem in 1991.

Then after a 15 year gap Kerr returned to his Philip Marlowe-like wise cracking detective in 2006 with The One From The Other reviewed  here and here and this year with A Quiet Flame which I reviewed here.

The long gap from its publication 1989 has not dulled the impact of March Violets set in the Berlin of 1936 during the Olympic Games. Philip Kerr brilliantly uses the very 'Raymond Chandler like' wise cracking private eye Bernie Gunther to emphasise that the Nazis were not only complete bastards but had no sense of humour. 
Bernie Gunther's search for a double murderer, some important lost papers and a diamond necklace while trying to negotiate the complex rivalries and power struggles of a vicious totalitarian regime make this a really gripping book. There are the required plot twists and snappy dialogue to make this a good detective story, but of course it is much more than that as it is also a well researched investigation into the reality of fascism. 
Some might say we have heard this all before and is it necessary to read yet another book about the Nazis, and the interminable rivalries between Goering, Goebbels and Himmler.

Well today there is an election in Austria with two far right leaders, who apparently hate each other, Joerg Haider [BZO Alliance for Austria's Future] and Heinz-Christian Strache [FPO Austrian Freedom Party] expected to make gains at the expense of the centre-left parties.

'Is business picking up then?' I said. He turned to look at me. 'What happened to all the books? Weizmann shook his head sadly.
'Unfortunately, I had to remove them. The Nuremberg Laws--' he said with a scornful laugh,'- they forbid a Jew to sell books. Even secondhand ones.' He turned and passed through to the back room. 
'These days I believe in the law like I believe in Horst Wessel's heroism.' 


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