Paul's Reviews > If The Dead Rise Not

If The Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr
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Feb 05, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: mystery

I heard about this, the latest Bernie Gunther mystery, on NPR. The author, Philip Kerr, has a great hook: Bernie's a German, investigating crimes in Berlin during the rise of the Nazi Party. I immediately thought of the great novels of Alan Furst and Martin Cruz Smith. When Alan Furst's characters set out to spy on, frustrate, and impede the Germans during the 1930s and 40s, or when Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko gets involved in a politically sensitive criminal investigation in Moscow during the 1960s, the era is very much part of the story, and history comes alive along with the characters on the page. When Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther uncovers high-level Nazi Party and American mob collusion during the bidding for the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the historical backdrop is just that, a backdrop, and the presence of several infamous Nazi bigwigs feels a bit like name-dropping. Bernie is your classic hard-bitten ex-cop detective, a flatfoot who enjoys good food, strong drink, Havana cigars, and gorgeous dames, all of which he enjoys repeatedly and without much reflection. He could be American, English, or French, and he could just as well be plying his trade in some other historical era. The novel is a detective story; the history is incidental. But I would have given all that a pass and might even have read another Bernie Gunther novel some day, had it not been for the final chapter, where, to my shock and dismay, Philip Kerr tied up all the loose plot lines by having Bernie and Noreen, his main squeeze, explain it all in a conversation: "Then he did that, so I shot him and hid the gun in a laundry basket, then planted some false evidence to make it look like some guy you haven't heard about until right this instance did it." "Oh really? What happened then, Bernie?" A professional novelist wrote this shit? Sorry, that's just lame. I will not go sleuthing with Bernie Gunther again.
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