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March Violets

(Bernie Gunther #1)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  12,715 ratings  ·  1,250 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. The first book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, March Violets introduces readers to Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought he'd seen everything on the streets of 1930's Berlin; until he turned fr ...more
Paperback, 245 pages
Published July 27th 2004 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (first published March 23rd 1989)
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Jeffrey Keeten
 photo Berlin_zpsv4rg6648.jpg

”Back in the bedroom, she was still standing there, waiting for me to come and help myself. Impatient of her, I snatched her knickers down, pulling her onto the bed, where I prised her sleek, tanned thighs apart like an excited scholar opening a priceless book. For quite a while I pored over the text, turning the pages with my fingers and feasting my eyes on what I had never dreamed of possessing.”

I have to appreciate the fact that Bernhard “Bernie” Gunther compares having sex with a beautif
This is going to be a short one. March Violets is probably the first classic detective Noir that I've read. What attracted me towards this series was the setting. I have a fascination for Berlin and I do not know much about the pre-war period in the city.

Overall, I liked this novel but I think there is room for improvement. I learned interesting aspects about pre-war Germany and the extensive corruption in that period, I enjoyed the sarcastic humour of the detective and the mystery was satisfyi
Apr 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Berlin Noir.

March Violets, Philip Kerr’s 1992 introduction to German detective Bernard Gunther is a deliciously dark journey through the 1936 Berlin underground. We follow Gunther along an investigation that connects with the ‘36 Olympics with Jesse Owens, midnight liaisons with Prime Minister Herman Goering and solving a crime with the Gestapo lurking in the shadows.

Gunther, with a “mind like a comic book” is a WWI German veteran of the Turkish campaign and former Berlin police officer who is n
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
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: war
2.5 Stars

" Bernard Gunther is a private eye, specializing in missing persons. In Hitler's Berlin, He is never short of work."

A thriller with an interesting setting but the author's numerous wisecracks became a bit tiresome and just didnt float my boat overall.

I am not a fan of private Eye style thrillers which become a series but I choose this book because it was set in Berlin during the Winter of 1936 and thought the setting for a crime novel in Nazi Germany could work and be really interest
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having recently read the latest Bernie Gunther novel, “Greeks Bearing Gifts,” I was saddened to read of the death of Philip Kerr. This made me go back to the very first Gunther novel, “March Violets,” the beginning of the Berlin Noir trilogy, which I read in 1989 and have re-visited a few times since.

This time I listened to the audio version. Oddly, at first, Bernie has an American accent, but then, I suppose he is modelled on an old fashioned, gumshoe – the original, world weary, wise cracking
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Kripo Noir Homage

The first volume of Scottish author Philip Kerr's "Berlin Noir" trilogy (later expanded to 14 novels) is an immaculately conceived and executed homage to the pulp fiction of Raymond Chandler that deserves praise as a work of literature in its own right.

The main difference between the originals and the homage is that, in “March Violets", the setting is transposed to 1936 Nazi Germany just as the Berlin Olympic Games are about to commence.

The writing is word-perfect. There's e
Sep 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
"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
David Gustafson
Aug 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
After complaining that I was running out of re-reads from Raymond Chandler's oeuvre of Philip Marlowe mysteries, a friend suggested that I take a look at the noir novels of Philip Kerr's Berlin detective Bernie Gunther. Never heard of him. I took a quick look.

One reviewer claimed that Kerr was even better than Chandler. Really? I doubted that, but I promised myself that I would be pleased if Kerr were almost as good. I was a heroin junkie coming off my noir addiction and I needed a quick fix. Me
Like the Gestapo, I wear my hat differently from other men, with the brim lower in front than at the back. This has the effect of hiding my eyes of course, which makes it more difficult for people to recognize me. It's a style that originated with the Berlin Criminal Police, the Kripo, which is where I acquired it.

Hard to put down thriller, this was Philip Kerr's first of the 14 Bernie Gunther novels. That 14th, Metropolis, will be published posthumously this year.

Since this is the first I've re
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very good noir novel set in Nazi Germany. Kerr clearly knows the noir detective formula, and the setting is well-done. It feels immersive, not forced.
Mar 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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
Jul 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
As Nate Heller is to American P.I. noir; as Arkady Renko is to Russian P.I. noir; Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther is to Nazi-era P.I. noir.

The words come fast; the cultural references are piled on one another; and our P.I. gets the worst of many encounters. Some favorite quotations:

“(He) wasn’t always that way, and before March 1933 he had been a bit of a Red. He knew that I knew it, and it always worried him there were others who would remember it too. So I didn’t blame him for the picture and the
Judith E
Dec 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, mystery
A well done noir mystery taking place in Berlin during Hitler’s rise. Private investigator Bernie Gunther is hired by a steel magnate to solve the murder of his daughter and her husband. During the hunt, the reader gets a taste of what Berlin was like and encounters Himmler, Goering, the 1936 Olympics and Dachau. There is some humor throughout, interspersed with a robust use of similes such as, “his neck stood out like a turtle in a rented shell” and “he felt as bad as a dugout canoe”.

The Audib
Jun 28, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a solid start to what promises to be an engaging series! Bernie is quite the character, a caricature of his time in the setting of 1936 Berlin - sexist, blunt, definitely not PC. The story was good, but not great, with a few plot holes, but I didn't mind. I am a character-driven reader, and Bernie Gunther, with all his quirks delivered on that front. I also felt Kerr did a wonderful job of creating an almost palpable atmosphere of tension. I would definitely read another book in this ser ...more
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
The late Philip Kerr is best known for his Berlin Noir series featuring Bernhard ‘Bernie’ Gunther. They are well-respected historical mysteries, taking place mostly in Berlin during the years just before, during and after WWII.

March Violets is the first of the Bernie Gunther novels and takes place in 1936—there is the lead-up to the Olympic Games, the star runner Jesse Owens, and Hitler consolidating power through his control of the SS and Gestapo. Throughout the novel are examples of the viciou
The only library copy in our whole area & patiently Ive waited around 3 months for this book, hope its worthy as heard many good things about this series which Ive taken my sweet time getting around too..... been on my trl since 2014, although in my defence I’ve been working my way through other series of the era.

I was hooked in the first few chapters..... the era, the humour, the observational musings, the unfolding of the story, the scene setting, the character development..... it’s all sublim
Apr 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
March Violet is book one of the Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr. Private detective Bernie Gunther was asked by Herr Doktor Hermann Six to find the murder of his daughter Grete and her husband Paul and to find his daughter's missing jewels. However, Bernie Gunther did not realise what he was getting into by accepting this case. The readers of March Violet will go on a roller coaster ride with Bernie Gunther to find out who killed Grete and Paul Pfarr.

March Violets is the first book I have r
Ivonne Rovira
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: noir lovers
First, what were “March violets”? That was a slang term for opportunistic Germans who raced to jump on the Nazi bandwagon once Adolph Hitler came to power in March 1933.

Philip Kerr paints an eye-opening picture of Germany in 1936, with widespread corruption and terror. Berlin ex-cop-turned-private eye Bernhard Gunther is cynical, wisecracking and determined as his search for missing diamonds leads him into a number of other misdeeds — including some by the highest levels of the Third Reich. Nee
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
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
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
Marlowe among the Nazis. I enjoyed this book. Like Chandler and Hammett, Kerr can write a fast-paced, hard-hitting, rompy detective novel. Kerr just choses to set his hard-boiled noir right in the middle of Nazi Germany. Talk about a helluva-lot of femme fatale potential. Sometimes, Kerr's machine-gun-quick, funky, metaphors are almost too much. Easy Kerr, calm down, I've barely swallowed your last sentence and you are bashing me on the head with another over-the-top description of a Bavarian wo ...more
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
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a masterful beginning to a dark series about a private detective who first begins in 1936 Germany. The time and the setting are essential to the narrative, placing the story in a dark soul-drenching time and place where a socialist authoritarian police state has taken root. For good reason, the Berlin of the 1930's is a place of fear and terror and conformity. There are those who are selling their worldly possessions for ten cents on the dollar in the hopes of escaping. And there are tho ...more
Alex Cantone
I used to love this old city. But that was before it had caught sight of its own reflection and taken to wearing corsets laced so tight that it could hardly breathe. I loved the easy, carefree philosophies, the cheap jazz, the vulgar cabarets and all of the other cultural excesses that characterized the Weimer years and made Berlin seem like one of the most exciting cities in the world.

1936. As Berlin is spruced ahead of the XI Olympiad, former detective Bernie Gűnther is in demand. Retained by
Left Coast Justin
Dec 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: krimi
Rounding up from 3.5 stars

I generally don't choose books that involve Nazis to read in my free time....I am well aware that the Holocaust actually happened, or to put it in less passive terms, that the majority of people in several nations either actively or through lack of resistance murdered millions of people. I derive no pleasure from reading about this, which is simply a reminder of how barbarous people can become.

This book had several things to recommend it, despite falling prey to too man
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
'March Violets' by Philip Kerr, the first of the Bernhard Günther novels, is a coal-black, Nazi-era noir set in Berlin.

Bernhard Günther is reminiscent of Chandler's Marlowe, he's a wisecracking, cynical private eye, and Philip Kerr plays this aspect to the hilt, barely a paragraph goes by without a new and inventive metaphor or simile.

As is always the way in these books, the plot thickens, and then thickens again. Bernie has to be very diligent and highly motivated to get results, and all this
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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)
  • 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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