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March Violets (Bernard Gunther #1)

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3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  3,030 ratings  ·  337 reviews
Hailed by Salman Rushdie as a “brilliantly innovative thriller-writer,” Philip Kerr is the creator of taut, gripping, noir-tinged mysteries set in Nazi-era Berlin that are nothing short of spellbinding. The first book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, MARCH VIOLETS introduces listeners to Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought he’d seen everything on the streets of 1930s Be ...more
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Published January 8th 2008 by Random House Audio (first published 1989)
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Michael
This is a case in which the first in a great series has significant flaws, but represents an essential read to set the context and history of the lead character.

PI Bernie Gunther makes a pretty good business tracking down people who have disappeared. That most of them are found to have been permanently disappeared by Nazi or communist factions is a sign of the times, Berlin in 1936. Out of the blue he gets tasked for a job by a wealthy steel magnate, the recovery of an expensive diamond brooch t
...more
Mara
"March Violets" (Märzveilchen): a term of derision used by the "Old Fighters" (Alte Kämpfer) to refer to those who "opportunistically" joined up with the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (aka the Nazi Party ) only after the Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz) was passed in March of 1933, which, effectively gave Chancellor Adolph Hitler unprecedented power over the people of the Reich (kind of the equivalent of johnny-come-lately/n00b, but in Nazi Germany).*

March 1933 Enabling Act at Reichstag

We meet our detective,
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Sue
Apr 14, 2013 Sue rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery and historical fiction readers
Enjoyed this trip to 1930s Germany as the Nazi Party is exerting it's power and remaking the country in the image it wants to present to the world while removing unacceptable people from the streets and homes of the nation. In this setting we encounter Bernhard Gunther, formerly of the police, now a private investigator specializing in finding things and people who are missing---a potentially lucrative area now.

One of my favorite scenes occurs as Bernie meets Hermann Goering in what is a wonderf
...more
Greg
The concierge was a snapper who was over the hill and down a disused a mine-shaft. Her hair was every bit as natural as parade goose-stepping down the Wilhelmstrasse, and she'd evidently been wearing a boxing-gove when she'd applied the crimson lipstick to her paperclip mouth. Her breasts were like the rear ends of a pair of dray horses at the the end of a long hard day. Maybe she still had a few clients, but I thought it was a better bet that I'd see a Jew at the front of a Nuremberg pork-butch ...more
John
This is the first of Kerr's series about ex-cop-turned-PI Bernie Gunther, here trying to solve a case (he's hired by a plutocrat to track down an expensive item of jewellery missing from the safe of the plutocrat's murdered daughter and son-in-law) while coping with the everyday horrors and bureaucratic complications of Nazism in pre-WWII Berlin.

A problem the novel has is that this latter aspect is often far more interesting, and far more effectively portrayed, than the noirish plot itself; I c
...more
Tfitoby
This really is quite something. A homage to and an evolution of the classic noir detective novel in one.

This is a fabulously entertaining story of corruption and intrigue in Nazi Germany investigated by a strong and interesting character in Bernie Gunther. Throughout I was constantly imagining Bogart. As mentioned in a review of another noir recently, the Bogart test is a true gauge of how good a classic style noir is. And this one is very very good.

The case he was actually hired for was quite a
...more
Mohammed
This is first book in Berlin Noir trilogy a hardboiled PI series set in 1930s,1940s Germany. It was fun,twisting and vivid PI story. There was alot of information about Berlin streets,culture that made it feel like german author,german characters and not another american,british author telling a story about those times. Bernie Gunther was as a PI should be wisecracking,smart and tough enough to know he is only human. Specially living in a city controlled by SS, many other kind police,government ...more
Michael
Bernie Gunther investigates the murder of the daughter of one of German’s wealthiest industrialists while the 1936 Summer Olympics play out in Berlin. Gunther is an ex-policeman that thought he had seen everything, but becoming a freelance Private Investigator has found him being sucked into the horrible excesses of Nazi subculture.

This is classic hard-boiled/noir fiction; it has the hard-hitting detective, a fast-paced plot and the everyday violence you come to expect. But this time that everyd
...more
Isidore
Although there is an abundance of diaries, memoirs, and historical studies which can help us imagine what living in the Third Reich was like, Kerr does not try for psychological realism, but merely imports behaviour and character types from American noir.

As if to compensate for the fundamental phoniness of placing familiar American noir types in a Nazi setting, Kerr clutters his narrative with a mass of pedantic "period" detail, even to the extent of identifying one character's drink as "a glas
...more
Judy
Apr 09, 2012 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Judy by: Anne
I liked this book. Why is that shocking? Let me count the reasons.

(1) I'm no fan of series, so I rarely read a book if I know it is part of one.
(2) I get tired of reading about Hitler, WWII, and Nazis.
(3) I'm burned out on detective mysteries because they are normally too formulaic.
(4) Most books of this type don't explore cultures, traditions and the like to my satisfaction.

March Violets pulled off a feat I didn't know was possible...mixed humor into Nazi Germany without being offensive. Detec
...more
Mark
Aug 24, 2014 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the historical crime noir fiction
The library finaly did come through and found me the copies of the first three novels of Philip Kerr concerning Bernie Gunther. Which made me a very happy person.

Marching violets refers to the folks who jumped on the Nazi bandwagon once it got rolling in 1933, they were not the original followers of Mr Hitler and his scary men but decided that they could get their own ambitions filled whatever they were.

It is 1936 and Bernie Gunther is no longer a policeman but a private eye and when this book b
...more
Jim
The title of Philip Kerr's March Violets refers to Germans who joined the Nazi party late, pretending they were fervent devotees all along. This novel is the first volume of the author's Berlin Noir trilogy about a private detective in Hitler's Germany, taking place in 1936, right around the time of the famous Berlin Olympiad in which Jesse Owens took most of the track and field awards.

Detective Bernie Gunther is an ex-cop in the strange twilight years before World War II broke out. His specialt
...more
Nancy
Bernie Gunther is a dummkopf, painfully slow on the uptake. So, since I like to be surprised or at least challenged by a thriller and since I found Kerr's evocation of 1936 Berlin both obvious and overdone, this only gets two stars from me and I'm being generous at that.
Cynthia
New Age Chandler

This is Kerr’s first book and the first of his I’ve read. I enjoyed it though it seemed much like other mysteries I’ve read over the years, that is until toward the end when it suddenly took on more depth. I don’t want to discuss that part here for fear of ruining the book for new readers. The year is 1936, the place is Berlin Germany. Bernie Gunther is a detective who’s opposed to the Nazi regime that’s infested Germany. Kerr does a good job with giving the reader a feel for the
...more
Eric_W
). Pelican has released a trilogy of his Berlin detective novels that feature the wise-cracking, ex-Kripo, private detective, Bernie Gunther. The first, March Violets, takes place in 1936 as the Nazis are rising to power, and Kerr sets the scene masterfully. Bernie has been hired to find the contents of a safe that belonged to the daughter of Herr Six, a wealthy German manufacturer. It seems Six’s daughter and son-in-law were murdered, their house torched, and jewels worth millions of marks remo ...more
[Redacted]
Good, old fashioned Weimar Republic noir. This was the first book in a remarkably original noir series. I liked it...a lot...a whole lot. I don't know if I quite loved it but I can definitely see how this series could grow Ito something outstanding. Noir set in 1930's Germany, and done so well. I look forward to the next few.
Maria João Fernandes
"Como é que se descreve o indescritível? Como se pode falar de algo que nos deixou mudos de horror? Havia muitos, mais eloquentes do que eu, que, simplesmente eram incapazes de encontrar palavras. É um silêncio nascido da vergonha, pois até os inocentes são culpados. Despido de todos os direitos humanos, o homem retrocede para o estado animalesco."

"Violetas de Março" é o nome dado aos alemães que concordam e participam na violência nazi, sem pensar duas vezes. Estamos em 1936, em Berlin, e Bernh
...more
Helen
I haven't read a straight crime thriller in a long time, let alone any noir; but since I'm submerged in World War II, I thought I'd give the Berlin Noir trilogy a try.

Wow, does Mr. Kerr have the detail down! I feel like if I went to Berlin, I could use this book instead of a map. Nice, sharply cut characterization, lots of snappy Chandler-esque back and forth, all of it much edgier than the average Chandler because it's Germany in the late 1930's, and the witty give-and-take is with the Gestapo.
...more
Wayne Zurl
A friend who normally recommends books I don't like suggested this. His first home run. I liked it. This is first adventure in Kerr's Bernard Gunther series. The complicateed but easy to follow plot is set in 1936 Berlin when every citizen lived in fear of the Nazi machine. Bernie Gunther is an ex-KRIPO (Kriminal Polizei) detective and now private investigator who is hired by a steel magnate and his insurance company to find a priceless neckless and the killers of his daughter and son-in-law who ...more
Mark
March Violets, the nickname given to those whose recently found enthusiasm for Hitler's socialism may be less genuine than strategic, placed me inside pre-war Berlin. This is a detective novel in the Chandler tradition, but told with the German slang of that day. The backdrop is the despair and paranoia of people living under a government preparing to go to war, where most are afraid to speak out against the injustice paid to Jews, women, and anyone with a dissenting opinion. That world made my ...more
Ed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com
March Vio­lets by Philip Kerr is the first in a series of noir nov­els about Bernie Gun­ther, an ex-policeman who turned pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor. March vio­lets refers to Ger­mans who went along with the Nazi vio­lence mindlessly.

Bernard Gun­ther is a Berlin detec­tive, an ex-cop, who spe­cial­izes in track­ing down miss­ing per­sons, espe­cially Jews. A wealthy indus­tri­al­ist asks Bernie to track down the mur­der of his daugh­ter and son-in-law who were killed dur­ing a robbery.

The inves­ti­
...more
Jim
The first of Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series is like Philip Marowe transported to Nazi-era Berlin. Like Marlowe's Los Angeles, Gunther's Berlin is a city on the make. The title refers to those opportunists who jumped on the Nazi bandwagon after January 1933, but the biggest opportunists are the Nazis themselves.One quickly concludes that the jaded cynicism of the hardboiled detective is perhaps one of the healthier attitudes to take toward this world.

Gunther, a former police detective, speci
...more
Shawn Thrasher
Incredibly well plotted, with a deliciously dark setting, and memorable characters. I ate up the twist on noir, with the hardboiled detective being a German under the heel of the Nazis. Kerr's Nazi Germany is like everything you knew about Berlin 1936, only turned on its side to reveal the even darker, uglier things lurking underneath. We all know about Hitler and his merry band of demons, and Kerr certainly has the usual cameos from humanity's contest for worst person ever. But Kerr's Berlin is ...more
Trish
Bernie Gunther is a Private Investigator in Berlin 1935. He is hired by a wealthy man to find a stolen diamond necklace, and the murderer of his daughter and son-in-law. Bernie is the typical hard-boiled private detective of the Noir genre; hard drinking, gun toting ex-cop turned PI. Nothing too original, except the backdrop, Berlin 1935-36. Kerr does an excellent job of setting the pre-WWII atmosphere in Germany. I found the historical information of Nazi Germany much more interesting than the ...more
J. Michael
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have not read a lot of noir, but I am a big fan of Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko novels. While the writing style here is much different from Smith, whose books are a more modern form of mystery than they are noir, the basic idea of a cop (or in the case of March Violets, a private detective) trying to get by in a totalitarian state is similar.

Fortunately, while they are both basically good guys, Renko and Bernhard Gunther are not really very similar. So I fee
...more
Sebastien
First off, there are lots of Nazis, sex, and guns in this story. That is a big plus.

I liked the story, writing is quite fun (but the overuse of similes got a little annoying).

This is a detective story that takes place in pre-world war II Berlin. The story is told from the point of view of the main character, sort of a classic hard-boiled detective type... but really well-done, very fresh, the secondary characters are fun and the imagination and insights into the 3rd Reich very interesting. I wa
...more
Tom
A Brit writing about a Kraut who talks like a Yank who worships Chandler. The heavy-handed mixture almost stangled this one in the tub for me, but the protag PI's willigness to piss off stuffed Brown-shirts and to admit his fears about the inevitable blow-back gradually won me over. The plot got a bit too convoluted for me, but Kerr was at his best when describing the political atmosphere and, especially, conditions in early days of Dachau, when it was still primarily a one-way detention center ...more
Debbie Maskus

This book was chosen for a mystery book club, and I must lead the discussion. The German proper noun are difficult to pronounce and therefore difficult to remember. The time before WWII marks a perilous era in German history. While preparing Berlin, Germany, for the summer Olympics of 1936, Hitler's regime had started their atrocities against the Jews and non-Aryans. March Violets, the title of Kerr's novel refers the late comers to the Nazi party after Hitler's Enabling Act of March 1933. Membe
...more
Jim Leffert
The first volume of Kerr’s hard-boiled Berlin Noir trilogy introduces Bernie Gunther, a private eye working in the German capital in the mid-1930’s, after the Nazis have taken over and when they are hosting the 1936 Olympics. Propelled by one mordant quip after another, Bernie, a former cop, tries to get to the bottom of a murky situation involving the apparent arson-murder of a powerful industrialist’s daughter and son-in-law and a wide open safe that previously held a fabulous diamond necklace ...more
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Detctive novel in 1930s Berlin 7 56 Dec 11, 2014 11:32AM  
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Kerr has published eleven novels under his full name and a children's series, Children of the Lamp, under the name P.B. Kerr.

More about Philip Kerr...
Berlin Noir: March Violets / The Pale Criminal / A German Requiem The One from the Other (Bernard Gunther, #4) Prague Fatale (Bernard Gunther, #8) Field Gray (Bernard Gunther, #7) A Quiet Flame (Bernard Gunther, #5)

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