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The Pale Criminal (Bernie Gunther #2)

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  2,746 Ratings  ·  210 Reviews
Hailed by Salman Rushdie as a "brilliantly innovative thriller-writer," Philip Kerr is the creator of taut, gripping, noir-tinged mysteries that are nothing short of spellbinding. In this second book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, The Pale Criminal brings back Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought he’d seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin—until he turned freel ...more
Paperback, 273 pages
Published June 28th 2005 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (first published 1990)
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Community Reviews

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There's a fine line between being lovably flawed and being a jerk when it comes to detectives/secret agents and what have you. Last time around, Bernard Gunther was in the former category. You can't blame a guy for having a bleak outlook on life in late-1930s Berlin, and the misogynistic attitude was what it was. In round two of Bernie's adventures, The Pale Criminal , I found him much harder to stomach.

It's not just the bedding of women during sex crimes investigations that got me, so muc
Oct 06, 2014 Mark rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of historical crime fiction
I finally finished this novel and dare to say that it is without any doubt the worst of the Bernie Gunthers' novels I have read so far, with two more to go.

Bernie is working as a PI after been out of the Berlin kripo (KRIminal POlizei = police) and he gets put back in his job by some serious Nazi big wigs simply because he is a good cop and in these days of Nazis getting all the good jobs there is a serious lack of cops who can actually work a case. The case being good German Aryan girls being k
Aug 22, 2016 HBalikov rated it really liked it
This is book #2 in the Bernie Gunther saga. It is 1936 and the dark cloud of National Socialism covers everything. Bernie is still depressed over the disappearance of his secretary/lover and he is trying to adjust to having a partner in his detective practice.

“I had another argument with my boy Heinrich when I got back from the Zoo.” (his partner mentions)
“What was it this time?”
“He’s only gone and joined the motorized Hitler Youth, that’s all.”
I shrugged. “He would have to have joined the regul
Chrissa Vasileiou
May 29, 2016 Chrissa Vasileiou rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-crime
Το δεύτερο βιβλίο της "Τριλογίας του Βερολίνου" είναι ένα αμιγώς αστυνομικό μυθιστόρημα. Η ναζιστική Γερμανία συνεχίζει να είναι ο άξονας πάνω στον οποίο κινούνται τα πάντα,όμως αυτήν τη φορά οι ιστορικές αναφορές και πληροφορίες έρχονται σε δεύτερη μοίρα,και σε πρώτη η αστυνομική δράση.

Βρισκόμαστε στο 1938 και ο Μπέρνι Γκούντερ καλείται να επιστρέψει στην αστυνομία,προκειμένου να διαλευκάνει μια σειρά φόνων έφηβων κοριτσιών. Παράλληλα,αναλαμβάνει και μια υπόθεση εκβιασμού,ως ιδιωτικός ερευνητής
Jun 18, 2012 Helen rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-ll
I read this all in one day. I repeat; in Nazi Germany, Bernie Gunther would have been dead ten times by page 50. But I'll forgive Phillip Kerr, if only for the great sensory pleasure of immersing myself in the reality of his description. He seems to know every neighborhood, every street, every boulevard, every music hall and restaurant and government building and whorehouse, the accents spoken by Germans from Nuremberg or Bavaria, and which Nazis were bad, or not so bad. The depth of his ...more
Mark Capell
Nov 21, 2012 Mark Capell rated it really liked it
I thought I was done with reading the traditional hard-boiled detective. Perhaps I picked this up in a nostalgic mood. I think it was Mark Lawson who talked about the three Ds of hard boiled detective fiction - drink, depression and divorce. Yes, it might be a truism that a lot of detectives in real life suffer from all of these, but it's been done to death in detective fiction. I love the novels of Henning Mankell and Ian Rankin, whose detectives are similarly inflicted but recently I vowed not ...more
Vasilis Kalandaridis
Aug 11, 2015 Vasilis Kalandaridis rated it it was amazing
Ο Bernie Gunther θα μπορούσε άνετα να ειναι πρόγονος του Harry Hole,ο Γερμανός θείος του,στο πιο νηφάλιο του βέβαια.Αλλά ειναι το ίδιο κυνικός,το ίδιο ζαμαν φου,το ιδιο διατεθειμένος να τσαλακωθεί.Έχω βάλει ήδη στόχο να διαβάσω όλα τα βιβλια του Kerr στα ελληνικά,εγώ είμαι της άποψης πως οταν βρεις ένα Φαϊ που σ'αρεσει δεν το κρατάς καβάντζα,το τρως μέχρι σκασμού.
Nov 30, 2008 Eric_W rated it it was amazing
Bernie’s investigations continue in The Pale Criminal. It’s a few years later and Hitler is about to move into Czechoslovakia. He is hired to find the blackmailer of a wealthy widow who owns a large publishing firm. Her son is being treated in a fancy sanitarium (psychotherapy has been ruled illegal by the Nazis — one of their few sensible actions) for his homosexual tendencies. As that persuasion has also been made illegal, he is a prime candidate for a concentration camp, so his mother is ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Tfitoby rated it liked it
Shelves: black-as-night
To put it simply this was not as enjoyable as the first Bernie Gunther novel. A shame perhaps but it was still an impressive entry in the series.

Whereas previously Bernie was constantly sardonic in his attitude towards the world and as such an extremely likable protagonist in The Pale Criminal he is tougher to like. Whether this is in response to the ever growing presence of a Nazi led war or just his new placement back in the Berlin police force it's hard to say but without that humour this was
Aug 18, 2012 Darwin8u rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
Probably 3.5 stars. Well written, but there is only so much Nazi sadism, sex and violence I can stomach. Kerr certainly doesn't wallow in it, but there still is too much exposure to the violent fetishes of 1938 Germany for me to really say I enjoyed this novel. That said, it was well written and original in its plot and story. There are no lack of victims and criminals to populate this Berlin Noir story. Not a book I'd necessarily recommend to my friends and family, but not a novel I'd run from ...more
Nov 02, 2016 Nigeyb rated it really liked it
Whilst not quite as good as 'March Violets', the first of the Bernhard Günther novels by Philip Kerr, this is an absorbing and exciting read.

Set in 1938, two years after the events of 'March Violets', Bernie Günther has taken Bruno Stahlecker, another ex-police officer, as his partner. The two are working on a case where a Frau Lange, owner of a large publishing house, is being blackmailed for the homosexual love letters her son Reinhardt sent to his psychotherapist Dr. Kindermann.

As in 'March
Mar 20, 2016 Speesh rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the second of Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy - also the second of his long-running Bernie Gunther series. I think I'm coming to like Bernie Gunther more as a character as he, or rather Kerr, isn't trying so hard as he did in March Violets, to out-do every other tired, cynical, wise-cracking, Private Eye in film and/or literature. Kerr has calmed down and so has Bernie, I mean. And both are a lot better for it. The fact that Bernie is a Private Eye in (soon to b ...more
Richard White
Sep 19, 2016 Richard White rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
Not quite as good as the later books but still an interesting insight into pre-war Nazi Germany.
Maria João Fernandes
"Este mundo é cheio de segredos e muito traiçoeiro."

Dois anos depois dos acontecimentos do livro "Violetas de Março", as coisas parecem piores, na Alemanha. O detective privado, Bernie Gunther, que agora tem um parceiro, aceita um simples caso de chantagem. Porém, o caminho da investigação complica-se e Gunther vê-se obrigado a voltar, temporariamente, para a policia, de forma a encontrar e parar um assassino em série de raparigas de 17 anos, loiras de olhos azuis.

O nosso herói, solitário e pens
J. Michael
Jul 23, 2013 J. Michael rated it liked it
A Pale Criminal is the second of Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther novels, set in 1938 Berlin. It is in several ways less satisfying than its predecessor. The characterizations are still strong but the plot that forms the core of any mystery is sadly lacking in a couple of respects.

One of the book's flaws is that the parade of top Nazis that float through the narrative reaches the point of being distracting. The inclusion of Arthur Nebe should surprise no one who is familiar with the German police hi
Mal Warwick
Aug 22, 2016 Mal Warwick rated it really liked it
Berlin, 1938. A private detective is pressed back into service in the criminal police (Kripo) at the behest of one of Germany’s most powerful Nazis. Soon he finds himself embroiled in a complex and intensely political power struggle at the highest levels of German government that he only dimly understands. This is the theme at the heart of Philip Kerr’s thriller, The Pale Criminal.

Bucking the Nazi tide in 1938 Germany

Detective Inspector Bernie Gunther had resigned from the Berlin Criminal Police
Matti Karjalainen
Luin viime vuonna skotlantilaisen Philip Kerrin Berlin Noir -sarjan ensimmäisen osan Liekit Berliinissä, joka kertoi yksityisetsivä Bernard Guntherin seikkailuista Hitlerin ajan Saksassa. Kovaksikeitetyssä tarinassa oli potentiaalinsa, mutta kokonaisuus ei ehkä ihan jaksanut kantaa loppuun asti. Kaikesta huolimatta päädyin silti lainaamaan sarjan toisen osan joululukemiseksi.

"Kalpeassa rikollisessa" (Atena, 2013) Bernard Gunther päätyy tutkimaan kiristystapausta, mutta kuten arvata saattaa, ei s
Melinda Seyler
Mar 09, 2013 Melinda Seyler rated it it was ok
Recommended to Melinda by:
Earlier in the year I read a book by this author and someone told me to read his Berlin Trilogy, because it was better.
Book two is called "The Pale Criminal". Again we have Bernie, the German detective in about 1939. His partner is killed as a result of a case they are working on and the only way he sees to find out who is responsible is to take the offer of a high party official and become part of the Police Department again. Cases interlock and the various Nazi organizations threaten him and
Oct 08, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing
Disturbing second in the Bernie Gunther series about a private detective trying to maintain an ethical standard in Nazi Germany. Kerr does a marvelous job setting the mood of creeping paranoia and growing evil in the Berlin of the 1930s and weaving his fictional detective into the fabric of actual historical events.

In this one he is hired by a woman to retrieve incriminating letters with which someone is blackmailing her because they are from her homosexual son. Gunther begins the investigation,
Jul 13, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it liked it
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Vladimir Bakaleinikoff

Private Investigator Bernie Gunther is hired by a wealthy woman to find out who is blackmailing her pudgy gay son, and Nazi bigwig Reinhard Heydrich convinces Gunther to come back to work for the police force (the Kripo, or Kriminalpolizei) to solve the brutal serial killings of blond Aryan Berlin schoolgirls in the months leading up to Kristallnacht in 1938. Naturally these two storylines, which seem discrete at first, will become connected.

Kerr is a skillful plotter and packs the novel with in
Ellen Keim
Feb 08, 2011 Ellen Keim rated it liked it
I liked this book very much, but it's quite similar to the first book in the Berlin Noir Trilogy, which made it seem less unique than it might have seemed if I'd read it as a stand-alone novel. The unsolved mystery at the end of the first book (March Violets) is solved in this book, but it's a complete anti-climax and not satisfying at all. I've got several more of this author's books from the library right now, but I've decided not to read them one after the other for fear I might dilute the ...more
Alan Annand
Jan 09, 2014 Alan Annand rated it really liked it
This is #2 in Philip Kerr’s Berlin Noir series, featuring his cynical but good-hearted hero Bernie Gunther, ex-cop turned private investigator. It’s 1938 and Bernie along with his partner Bruno are working a case for a wealthy woman whose homosexual son is being blackmailed.

Then Bruno gets killed on a stakeout and Bernie is commissioned by uber-Nazi Heydrich to catch a serial killer who’s been murdering blonde Aryan teenage girls all over Berlin and blaming it on the Jews. Although assigned a t
Unfortunately Mr. Kerr stepped it up a notch on profanity, sex, and graphic violence. I loved his Man Without Breath and was intrigued with March Violets. Naturally, I wanted to continue the series, particularly as Bernie's lady love had disappeared. However, from page one it was filled with the F word, and Bernie's lecherous musings on every female he encountered got old quick. The mystery did have to do with a serial killer, but the graphically violent sexual details were terrible. The ...more
Julie Barrett
May 06, 2012 Julie Barrett rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the second book in this series as much as the first one. This one takes place in 1938 when Berlin is on the brink of War. Gunther is forced by the Gestapo to re-join the police force in order to solve a gruesome series of crimes that the government wants hushed up and that the police haven't been able to solve. Blonde, blue eyed teenage girls are being kidnapped in Berlin - raped, strangled, and then drained of blood. Once again, the hero of the novel must deal with competing forces in ...more
Apr 26, 2012 Ian rated it really liked it
The second Bernie Gunther novel, with Kerr repeating the trick of cramming an enormous amount into a relatively short space. With Hitler about to invade what we knew as Czechoslovakia, Gunther's Berlin is an even more precarious place to exist, but he cuts a swathe through the Swastika-waving Nazis with Marlow-esque insouciance. Plenty of murder, sex and violence, but setting the action against harrowing historical events is a timely reminder that there is a limit to how much we should enjoy ...more
While this second book in the series had less of the noir and more of a story, it was not quite as good as the first. It was missing the charm of the first book, not to be mistaken with the lack of charm the main character portrays in either book, but the quirkiness of the story and the funny one liners are gone and the plethora of unlikable characters has been increased. All I think to the detriment of the book. So I think this is sayonara to this series.
Aug 22, 2014 Alison rated it it was ok
Bernie's anti- gay and mysogynistic inner monologue (clearly Kerr thought it acceptable in 1990) soured me on the protagonist and narrator from the start. The storyline/mystery itself presented felt more like shock value than historical fiction and the writing was somewhat rote, throughout. Not sure I'll give Kerr another try based on this one. Back to Cummings and Le Carre.
Jan 08, 2015 Trish rated it liked it
Read in conjunction with non-fiction works on the same topic, the novel gives a close, complementary look into the workings of the SS, the Gestapo, and the police.
José Vázquez
El segundo libro de las aventuras de Bernie Gunther me ha dejado en general mucho más satisfecho que Violetas de marzo. Las pegas que podía ponerle se van difuminando y poco a poco el escenario, casi lo más poderoso, se va dibujando más allá del cartón piedra.

Con una personalidad mucho más "contenida" que la del primer libro, Bernie Gunther deja de ser un cliché de detective marlowiano (sin perder ciertos dejes) para convertirse en algo más vivo. En este caso, además, la presencia de jerarcas na
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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.

Librarian’s note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.
More about Philip Kerr...

Other Books in the Series

Bernie Gunther (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • March Violets (Bernard Gunther, #1)
  • A German Requiem (Bernard Gunther, #3)
  • The One from the Other (Bernard Gunther, #4)
  • A Quiet Flame (Bernard Gunther, #5)
  • If The Dead Rise Not (Bernard Gunther, #6)
  • Field Gray (Bernard Gunther, #7)
  • Prague Fatale (Bernard Gunther, #8)
  • A Man Without Breath (Bernard Gunther, #9)
  • The Lady from Zagreb (Bernard Gunther, #10)
  • The Other Side of Silence (Bernie Gunther, #11)

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