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Berlin Noir: March Violets; The Pale Criminal; A German Requiem (Bernard Gunther #1-3)

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  4,084 ratings  ·  339 reviews
Now published in one paperback volume, these three mysteries are exciting and insightful looks at life inside Nazi Germany -- richer and more readable than most histories of the period. We first meet ex-policeman Bernie Gunther in 1936, in March Violets (a term of derision which original Nazis used to describe late converts.) The Olympic Games are about to start; some of B ...more
Paperback, 836 pages
Published 1993 by Penguin
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Remarkable books on many levels. They're well-researched and create a remarkably vivid portrait of wartime Berlin and post-war Vienna. The mysteries are first-rate hard-boiled stuff, with plenty of fistfights and other manly action, as well as twisting plots full of double-crosses and surprises. They also conjure up a chilling psychological portrait of Germany before and during the war, elevating them beyond pure page-turning crime fiction, for me, into moral literature. And yet, despite the vei ...more

I give up. I simply cannot read another noir cliché like, "Looking around the room, I found there were so many false eyelashes flapping at me that I was beginning to feel a draught." I know that's part of the genre, but I'm well into March Violets and it's going nowhere. These constant Jimmy Cagney comments have pushed me over the edge, and I think they're contagious. I'm struggling to keep my eyes open like a hooker in church on Sunday. Ugh....See what I mean?
This omnibus volume contains the first three Bernie Gunther novels by Philip Kerr. Reviews will be submitted separately for March Violets, The Pale Criminal, and A German Requiem.

The short version: read this series. The setting is ideally suited for the darkest roman noir. Bernie Gunther, who left the Kriminal Polizei because of politics taking precedent over justice, is the tough, wise-cracking P.I> who thumbs his nose at Hitler and his henchmen. However, not even Gunther can avoid being em
Echoes of Doblin and Hammett resonate in this opening trilogy in Kerr’s ongoing Bernie Gunther series. The cartoony image of a wise cracking shamus in Nazi Germany soon fades from your mind as Gunther’s journeys into pre and post war Germany becomes a chamber of horrors. The jaundiced world view and the cynical humor make it palatable while the seriousness of what is at stake is retained. Before the war the Nazis and after the war the United States and the Soviet Union act as deux ex machina in ...more
In one big paperback you get the complete Berlin trilogy: March Violets; The Pale Criminal and A German Requiem. This is noir at its best. Taking his cues from Chandler but making them its own, Kerr takes us into Berlin, 1936. Summer Olympics. Bernhard Gunther, ex-cop, now a private detective mostly finds missing persons and there are lot of them in Nazi's Berlin. Murder, politics and a very nice twist makes March Violets a very good start to a wonderful ride thru this dark part of history. The ...more
Just finished reading the whole trilogy in a row, which was a little more hard-bitten verbiage than I was prepared for. A few gems:
--"Don't make any sudden moves. I scare easily and then get violent to cover my embarassment."
--"With Jeschonnek's gun safely in my coat pocket, I bent down to take a look at him. You didn't have to be an undertaker to see that he was dead. There are neater ways of cleaning a man's ears than a 9 mm bullet."

If you enjoy Raymond Chandler, you'll like Philip Kerr. More
Dec 07, 2009 Bruce rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: diehard fans of noir
Like cheap detective fiction? On a recent trip to the library, I saw that they were having a donated book sale - five for a dollar. Since they had the Josephine Tey I recently reviewed (worth the dollar by itself), I was incentivized to pick out another four books and this single-bound trilogy by Philip Kerr caught my eye. I had fallen into Philip Kerr by way of his Wittgenstein-inspired bit of serial killer detective sci fi, A Philosophical Investigation. Thanks to the built-in philosophy, the ...more
Danielle Parker
Book Review: Berlin Noir by Philip Kerr
Penguin, 1991
ISBN 978-0-14-023170-0
835 pages
I’ve been “off” reading science fiction and fantasy for a while for a simple reason. I wanted some really good writing. And that’s hard to find in the genre.
Now, that’s an incendiary statement, even to me. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid. The first two science fiction authors I read were Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton. I still love them. I can name half a dozen science fiction and fantasy authors I have so muc
This is a difficult review to write. The subject German National Socialism and the periods covered: 1936 (Olympics in Germany), 1938 (Sudetenland crisis), and 1947 (emerging cold war in Berlin and Vienna) are disturbing to many and difficult to think of in connection with Noir Fiction. However, Philip Kerr has managed to create an interesting trilogy out of it. The biggest drawback to the books is the over the top use of Noir cliches and characters. He might have done better to forego the langua ...more
Kerr creates excellent mood and draws the scenes vividly without monologuing about history. March Violets especially reads like a Chandler or Hammett classic without any irritating obscenity worries (a lot more sex and Gunther's lewd thoughts than the old masters would have been allowed to write), with the convoluted plots made moot by the dark, ominous mood that permeates the story.
Unputdownable - I read the whole thing in a matter of days.
I've read several books this year that are set in the same time period as this one and that deal with Hitler's rise to power. In Kerr's novel, Bernie Gunther, a private investigator and former police detective finds himself entangled with the Kripo, the Gestapo and just ordinary thugs as he tries to solve a double homicide and burglary. Kerr does a great job with sense of time and place in this character-driven and atmospheric mystery.
Besides being a brisk and entertaining read, these three great spy-slash-detective novels also offer a unique way to explore one of history's weirdest and most horrible societies: Nazi Germany in the lead up to WWII. All the usual elements of a good noir are here -- sex, cynicism, rainy streets, deadly puzzle pieces, guns, and good suits -- this time set against the massive and sinister backdrop of humanity's most important historical event. The main character, Bernie Gunther, serves as our unst ...more
Trois excellents policiers à la Michael Connelly, version Allemagne des années 1930 à 1947. Leçon d'histoire, la montée du nazisme, jusqu'au pays occupé par les puissances. Le point de vue est passionnant car vu de l'intérieur. Alors que notre regard a posteriori sur cette période est rempli d'horreur, la litanie du discours appris à l'école nous trotte dans la tête "plus jamais ça", mais finalement, la question n'est pas de savoir comment un peuple a-t-il pu laisser faire cela ? mais plutôt : c ...more
My weakness for Acceptable But Ultimately Regrettable Historical Fiction is, I feel, well-documented on Goodreads -- generally an absurdly picky consumer of books, when the mood strikes I will read a seed catalogue if it is set in interwar Europe. I'm so happy, then, to have discovered this non-guilty pleasure to squirrel away for moments when only nicotine-stained fingers clutching guns and schnapps will do. The cover blurb, a patently ridiculous sentence, ranks Phillip Kerr with Alan Furst and ...more
I am at an unusual loss for words here. Phillip Kerr has written a series about a man who was originally an honest detective in the Berlin police department in the early 1930's, quits and becomes a private detective as the police house gets ugly (becomes the SS and the Gestapo), and is increasingly ruined by the Nazis. This is brilliant. Original, and absolutely relevant. When it comes to "noir" nothing touches a guy trying to make it as a decent man in Nazi Germany, though I never thought of th ...more
Linda Baker
BERLIN NOIR (Bernie Gunther Books 1-3)
Philip Kerr
Viking Penguin

Berlin Noir is a repackaging of the first three books in the Bernie Gunther series: March Violets, The Pale Criminal, and German Requiem. Noir is not and has never been a preferred genre for me but having read a review of the most recent Bernie Gunther, The Lady from Zagreb, I decided to give the series a spin.

Bernie is a cynical, hard-drinking, somewhat overweight PI working primarily on missing persons cases. The setting for March
Apr 30, 2014 Emily rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily by: panost
Απολαυστικό βιβλίο που μου κράτησε συντροφιά στις μεταπασχαλινές μου διακοπές στο χωριό.
Απολαυστικό αλλά ασήκωτο...
Ήταν ανάγκη να κάνουν 3 βιβλία σε ένα;
Στον καναπέ κόντευε να με πλακώσει, ο καρπός μου έπαθε θλάση και ο αγκώνας μου πιάστηκε.

Η πρώτη ιστορία είχε ωραίο τίτλο. "Οι βιολέτες του Μάρτη" και είναι ουσιαστικά η εισαγωγή στον εφιάλτη του ΓΡάιχ. Διαδραματίζεται το 1936 στο Βερολίνο. Μου άρεσε η μετάφραση, είχε μια σπιρτάδα. Από την άλλη όμως θα έπρεπε να έχει αρκετές επεξηγήσεις για λέξει
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
I bought this book a long time ago - I think it had just come out in paperback. I never read it beyond the first few paragraphs - some books are like that; they attract your attention with a seductive wink and come-on covers but when you open them... well... you're just not in the mood and they go on the shelf. And there they stay. Every now and then you feel you ought to read them but not right now and then, after a while they just become part of the furniture...
Then I read Lehter Station and w
Une brique de plus de 1000 pages qui réunit trois récits, L'été de Cristal, La pâle figure et Un requiem allemand. Un roman noir qui nous plonge dans l'Allemagne nazie du IIIème Reich. Trois périodes, 1936, 1938 et 1947, traversées par Bernie, ancien de la police berlinoise, reconverti en détective privé. Trois intrigues qui ont comme toile de fond une période sombre de l'histoire et ses obscurs protagonistes.
Au début, l'épaisseur du livre fait peur. Une fois poussé la porte des premiers chapitr
Andi Marquette
I discovered Kerr by accident while cruising around websites after reading Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts, which deals with the rise of the Nazi Party in pre-WWII Berlin.

This volume is comprised of the first 3 of Kerr's novels that star Bernie Gunther, a former policeman in pre-WWII (and later post-WWII) Berlin. He's left the police force because he didn't like where the Nazis were taking it, and he struck out on his own. March Violets takes place in 1936, before the Olympics took place i

This book comprises the following books: March Violets (1989), The Pale Criminal (1990) and A German Requiem (1991).

Bernard Gunther is a former Commissioner of the Berlin police and also an ex-soldier, became a private detective. His style of working reminds Philip Marlowe in the late 1930s.

In this trilogy, the author describes in a magnificent way the III Reich and its apogee until the German in ruins in 1947 after the end of World War II.

The description of how Berlin was "cleaned" for the Olym

Philip Kerr is a British novelist of varied talent it seems. He has written children's novels and what some consider a cult classic ('A Philosophical Investigation'). The first book in his Berlin Noir trilogy about P.I. Bernie Gunther, is called 'March Violets'. A march violet is someone who came to the Nationalist Party in pre WWII Germany after 1933 and is a member because there is some personal gain to be had and not a true believer in Der Führer's vision. I started out liking this story, the ...more
This is a terrific atmospheric series of three cop thrillers, the first two set in Nazi Germany, the third just after World War Two, featuring Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther. Kerr writes in the first person from Gunther's point of view, very much in the mould of Raymond Chandler. Although at times this style can be a little annoying, it definitely helps to portray the seedier side of Nazi Germany. All three of these novels shed light on the Germanies of their times, in fact; the final novel in the ...more
Lance Charnes
Jul 28, 2012 Lance Charnes rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of noir, hardboiled PIs, or interwar European intrigue
Berlin Noir is a compilation of three full novels that together lay the foundation for Kerr's Bernie Gunther series. If you imagine Philip Marlowe dropped into pre-war Berlin with more sex, you end up with a rough idea of what you get with ex-cop Gunther and his milieu.

The first two novels in this omnibus take place in 1930s Berlin, while the third is set mostly in 1947 Vienna. In all three, PI Gunther ends up investigating crimes borne from the moral, legal and economic rot of the Nazi regime.
J'ai terminé il y a peu l'excellente "trilogie Berlinoise" de Philip Kerr; n'ayant malheureusement ni le courage, ni le temps d'écrire une vraie critique, je voulais néanmoins partager quelques impressions de lecture, et dire combien j'ai aimé ce livre.

Je ne lui ai mis que 3 étoiles, parce que les 4 et 5 étoiles sont réservées, en ce qui me concerne, aux chefs d'œuvre de la littérature, pourtant si je devais juger uniquement par rapport aux autres romans noirs, je ne pourrais pas lui donner moin
Michael Alenyikov
Snappy similes that are clever to laugh out loud funny, complex plots that are wonderfully bewildering, a cynical detective, fast pace, good writing, and a deep sense of place: Berlin under Hitler in the 1930s, then post war Berlin and Vienna. What kept me reading besides the above, was how the people and buildings described, regardless of they're being vicious nazis, opportunistic nazis, everyday people who might be anti semitic or not, and some of the good folks, no one knew even if they antic ...more
With a lovable Chandler-esque protagonist to comment (at times quite colorfully) on the goings-on in pre and post-war Berlin this was (for now) my last choice in my Berlin crime novel bundle. Kerr paces his stories well, and he leads you expertly as our detective gathers more information about his cases. As each case builds in complexity this book does an excellent job of showing the different levels of power, the truly amazing cast of real characters all jockeying for position, and the feelings ...more
This is a collection of three books written by Philip Kerr between 1989-1991. They are crime/detective novels set in pre and post WW2 Berlin. The hero is a sardonic and resourceful policeman turned private investigator by the name of Bernie Gunther. After writing these three books, Philip Kerr took a long break from the character and wrote a number of other books, before returning to Gunther in 2006 with The One from the Other. There are now seven (about to be eight) books in the series altogeth ...more
This decidedly noir trilogy about the misadventures of a Nazi-era private detective in Berlin, Bernhard Gunther, harkens back to the novels of Raymond Chandler, from everything I've ever read about Raymond Chandler. But to be honest, if the debt to Chandler had been the only noteworthy thing about any of these books, then I would have given them all a miss, because I can't stand hard-boiled American detective fiction (I can no longer even stand the gifted Elmore Leonard). And, it's true, the fir ...more
Amazingly researched, beautifully written, overflowing with suspense and packed with real life situations, historical fiction doesn't get any better than this. Besides, Bernard Gunther is one of the most believable and endearing character modern literature has produced. Regardless of it's historical background, this volume puts to shame stuff like The Millennium Trilogy.

Update: the fiercest review I found on this book was by someone who gave 5 stars to The Time Traveler's Wife.
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please add book cover from amazon 1 3 May 24, 2015 11:59AM  
  • The World at Night (Night Soldiers, #4)
  • Stettin Station (John Russell, #3)
  • Rosa (Berlin Trilogy, #1)
  • A Small Death in Lisbon
  • Second Violin (Inspector Troy, #6)
  • The Good German
  • The Oppermanns
  • A Trace of Smoke (Hannah Vogel, #1)
  • Pavel & I
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...

Other Books in the Series

Bernard Gunther (10 books)
  • March Violets
  • The Pale Criminal (Bernard Gunther, #2)
  • 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)
March Violets 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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“I didn’t know you were interested in politics,’ I said. ‘I’m not,’ he said. ‘But isn’t that how Hitler got elected in the first place: too many people who didn’t give a shit who was running the country?” 5 likes
“Compared with the person who had decorated and furnished the place, the Archduke Ferdinand had been blessed with the taste of a troupe of Turkish circus dwarves.” 1 likes
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