[By Nic Lindh on Saturday, 19 August 2006]
Philip Kerr’s Berlin Noir is an omnibus of three novels: March Violets, The Pale Criminal, and A German Requiem.
All three novels follow private investigator Bernie Gunther through different eras of Nazi Germany, with March Violets taking place in 1936, The Pale Criminal in 1938, and A German Requiem in 1947.
Kerr writes in a style that is a direct homage to Raymond Chandler, and Bernie Gunther is very much a Raymond Chandler-style private dick. Of course, channeling the great master is quite difficult, and Kerr almost but not quite pulls it off. The greatest problem is that the plots require too much exposition, so things sometimes get a bit talky.
The novels do get close though, and certainly carry a lot of power, as Kerr uses the noir form to investigate what life was like for the German people during the insanity of the Nazis’ rise to power and in A German Requiem the brutal conditions after the war.
Well worth reading for anybody interested in the psychology of madness that can lead to the rise of the sickness of Nazism and the terrible cost of the war it caused.