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Berlin Noir: March Violets / The Pale Criminal / A German Requiem

(Bernie Gunther #1-3)

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  8,426 ratings  ·  602 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, 834 pages
Published 1993 by G.P. Putnam's Sons
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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  8,426 ratings  ·  602 reviews

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Start your review of Berlin Noir: March Violets / The Pale Criminal / A German Requiem (Bernie Gunther #1-3)
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was ok

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?
Jul 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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 embro
May 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
So, I'm returning to this review because I made a clerical error. I had read the first two books in the series, and was trying to separate my reviews, but I ended up putting a general review on the trilogy rather than critiquing each book separately as was my intent. Now that I have read the third book (German Requiem), I am more impressed. The post-war Germany that Kerr describes is quite interesting. I was in Germany in the late '80's, just before the wall came down, and there were still echoe ...more
Lewis Weinstein
Hard boiled detective, Berlin style, 1936.

Bernie Gunther faces the world of Nazi violence and duplicity as an outsider, a former cop who is now a private detective, mostly looking for missing people. His work pulls him into the Nazi vortex, which is not unusual, since the Nazis are the main cause of people going missing. The pace is rapid, and there is not much depth to the characters; I guess these aspects of Kerr's writing complement each other.

Another aspect is less pleasing. I would call K
Dec 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: diehard fans of noir
Shelves: fiction
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
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
readathon17 book 11: a crime book

I would give 4.5 stars.
This is actually 3 books, where the main character is a private investigator, living in Berlin.
The three cases he deals with are interesting and I liked him as a character (he is not so "destroyed" as main characters of crime novels usually are).

But the big plus of this book is the WHEN. The first book take place in 1936: Hitler is on the rise, people like him, there are some weird laws, Jewish people are slowly trying to flee the country.
Oct 05, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: mysteries-noir
Couldn’t finish.

Let me explain: I’m not a devoted fan of the mystery genre though I’m thankful to GoodReads for introducing me to some worthy authors in that field that I would otherwise never have read. In the normal course of affairs, I probably would not have picked this book up even though the premise – a detective working in Nazi and post-war Germany – was promising. However, I work with a woman who likes this sort of thing and I keep my eye open for books to recommend or get for Xmas gifts
Dec 21, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sep 05, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Α well written noir, Kerr must have done his research about the time and the place. Although in the first book the end was easy to guess, the other 2 surprised me. A must read if you like detective stories
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing recreation of atmosphere in pre-war Berlin. Bernie Gunther is an interesting fellow to be around.
5/23/17: Finished the first book of the trilogy, March Violets. I quite enjoyed this first book in the Bernie Gunther series and I will be looking forward to the other two in this trilogy. I also have a few of the other books in the series that I will be reading. March Violets takes place in Berlin in 1936, the year the Olympics were held there. The term March Violet refers to a German who joins the Nazi party late in the game to gain favor from the party and take advantage of being a Nazi. Bern ...more
Jim Durrett
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
great trilogy. Not a good time to have lived in Berlin. Or, Vienna, where the 3rd one concludes. I have read where many of the readers don't care for Bernie. He is a 1935 concoction. And, he lives in Berlin during Hitler's rise to power. I think the author, whom I read did an exhaustive study of Berlin, living there and trying to get a feel for his words. I liked it. I am looking forward to reading his following work.
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
Tim Slee
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have very very few books in my Did Not Finish pile, and none of those are crime noir novels because I LOVE NOIR... but ...

(Thud of Phillip Kerr’s Berlin Noir series hitting the floor)

... this one is a first.

It shouldn’t have been, I love the setting (Berlin, 1930s, bad Nazis ... awesome). Second, he has the tone down pat, with some great Chandleresque writing:

“If he was a member of the human race at all, Neumann was its least attractive specimen. His eyebrows, twitching and curling like two p
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Chandler like noir in a pre and post war Germany. Historical villains woven into the fabric of the novels. A tough guy private eye functioning in that world. It's a good recipe for a noir fan.
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Greg Kerestan
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Two very good novels and one great one make up this trilogy, following ex-cop Bernie Gunther as he attempts to keep his nose clean through the rise, fall and decimation of Nazi Germany. The hardboiled noir influence is strong here (mostly in the first volume), but rarely falls into cliché or gratuitous pandering. Overall, a fantastic look at a dark era in recent history, when Nazis, Stalinists, secret police, communists, the queer underground, renegade psychologists, pre-Christian Germanic pagan ...more

Berlin Noir includes the first three volumes in what appears to be a runaway series featuring the inimitable detective/louche Bernard Gunther.

-I hope you don't think I have anything against the Jews.
*Of course not, I said. But of course that's what everyone says. Even Hitler. p28

The backdrop is the WWll, and PK does a lot of name dropping, relying on the readers familiarity with the known facts and events and the main cast of characters in the Nazi circus. The books are drenched with atmospheri
Brad Howard
Mar 14, 2020 rated it liked it
There’s a lot I liked in these three books, but I wanted to love them and didn’t quite. A little more violent than my personal preference and I was definitely left a little ambivalent by the portrayals of Heydrich and some other notorious Nazis. But Kerr’s recreation of that era is terrific and the stories, at their core, are compelling and entertaining.
Neal Wilson
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Three very fine Philip Kerr mysteries in one volume. I enjoyed these, although I'd have to say some of the
later books in the series are better. Kerr was just sharpening his nib on these three. I still have more Bernie
Gunther stories to go. I consider myself lucky :)
NC Stone
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really good historical mystery fiction set in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and '40s.
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this detective. His sarcasm was appropriate for the late 1930’s in Berlin. He knew how to get the bad guys and I enjoyed his ways of getting things done
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Philip Kerr was a British author. He was best known for his Bernie Gunther series of 13 historical thrillers 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.

Other books in the series

Bernie Gunther (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • March Violets (Bernie Gunther, #1)
  • The Pale Criminal (Bernie Gunther, #2)
  • A German Requiem (Bernie Gunther, #3)
  • The One from the Other (Bernard Gunther, #4)
  • A Quiet Flame (Bernie Gunther, #5)
  • If The Dead Rise Not (Bernard Gunther, #6)
  • Field Gray (Bernard Gunther, #7)
  • Prague Fatale (Bernard Gunther, #8)
  • A Man Without Breath (Bernie Gunther #9)
  • The Lady from Zagreb (Bernard Gunther, #10)

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