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Bernie Gunther #3

A German Requiem

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The disturbing climax to the Berlin Noir trilogy

Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther novels have won him an international reputation as a master of historical suspense. In A German Requiem, the private eye has survived the collapse of the Third Reich to find himself in Vienna. Amid decaying imperial splendor, he traces concentric circles of evil and uncovers a legacy that makes the wartime atrocities seem lily-white in comparison.

306 pages, Paperback

First published March 28, 1991

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About the author

Philip Kerr

103 books1,788 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 483 reviews
Profile Image for Adina.
781 reviews2,959 followers
June 22, 2022
A near perfect example of noir historical mystery/spy novel.

A German Requiem is the 3rd volume in the Bernie Gunther series and the final instalment in in the original Berlin trilogy although the novel is set mostly in Wien. I had quite a few problems with the 1st volume, I was convinced by the 2nd and fell in love with the series by the 3rd.

The first two were set in Berlin in 1936 and 1938, while this one was set in Berlin and Vienna in 1947. Berlin is still struggling to recover after the loss of the War and so is Bernie. We are revealed that he had fallen prisoner into the Russian hands and somehow escaped. Also he got married which was quite a surprise. Due to his financial problems and following two unhappy events, he accepts a job in Wien in order to put some distance between him and his problems. One of his old colleagues is in jail for murdering an American and he is hired to prove his innocence. What follows is a dangerous quest for the truth where nothing is at it seems. Crossings and double-crossings, spy games, war crimes and old Nazis refusing to disappear, the novel has it all.

I also appreciated the evolution of the main character. He grew as a person and became more complex, with many existential questions to address. I also welcomed the almost disappearance of the rampant sexism present in the 1st volume, although he meets plenty of women in this one too.
I enjoyed the hoarse voice of the narrator, Jonathan Keeble. I think it goes well with the character and I will defiantly go with the audiobook for the next volume.

Other books in the series:
1. March Violets ***
2. The Pale Criminal ****
Profile Image for Mark.
1,294 reviews50 followers
December 31, 2018
to start this book finishes Philip Kerrs' Berlin Noir trilogy and while the story starts in Berlin 1947, a city under siege by the communist threat, most of it plays in Vienna. So I would label this last book more Vienna Noir than anything.
This whole book was guided by my internal soundtrack of Orson Welles The third man mostly by Anton Karas who played the famous theme on the zither. Which is perhaps not that odd when you consider the story told in this novel and the amount both have in common and not just the same era. Fitting that Kerr lets his book end on a movie set for the same movie.

Bernie Gunther in his post-WWII Berlin finds live violent and difficult after escaping from a Russian Prisoner-of-war-camp. His wife does everything to survive and he has some difficulty with that. It is good that his private detective work sends him of to Vienna where he is asked to prove his former colleague's innocence. Vienna like Berlin is a divided city in which the Russians also have a rather large foothold. In this ancient town there is a whole world of darkness filled by prostitution, black markets, spy-craft and murder. Bernie has to find his way through this maze of deception and is often not sure on whose side he is working and why. And of course the old Nazis have been beaten but are they really down and out?

This book is about the shadowy underbelly of the WWII and how the various parties were dividing the remnants of the Nazi Empire in all its knowledge and resources. Scarily enough the choices made were more often than not so morally sound as we would like to be. Bernie is as always on nobody's side but busy with surviving but not at any cost.

A good book written about the postwar cruelty that existed in Europe after WWII, and the shadows that were at work to build a new world. For anybody who expected the world to become a better place after the gruesome excesses of WWII a bit of unwanted insight in the real world.

A well written book and Kerr did a much better job than in his last attempt where his sexual politics were poor to terrible. In this book he does a much better job and also explained the world after the war which is at no time pretty and does not use any apologies for it.
This book is less of a detective story and far more a spy story and as such Vienna was the right place to set the tale.
I remembered with this book why I liked the Bernie Gunther stories and can only conclude that with his later books he did Bernie justice, as does this one.
Profile Image for Gary.
933 reviews196 followers
October 17, 2019
(SPOILER ALERT)

This is my favourite of the Bernie Gunther books because it is his least misogynist one and the woman are actually explored to some extent as real characters for the first time. Also it shows the stark desperation and poverty and danger of Berlin and Vienna at the time.

With Russian soldiers raping a pillaging and I though he had streotyped all Russian soldiers as barbaric monsters until MVD Colonel Poroshin who tries to recruit Gunther helps rescue Gunther's wife.

An interesting insight into the life of choc0ladies
Women and girls who sold sex to American and Allied soldiers for basic food provisions,
I found this incredibly sad.
The center of the plot is a network of former Nazi officers called the Org who aim to reconstruct the Third Reich. who are being sponsored by the Americans in their maniacal fight against the Communists.

My two favourite characters in the book are both women who die in the book violently but at least unlike the first Gunther book their characters and backgrounds were explored a little and they were not mere plot devices.
There is Traudl, a beautiful German Communist and Veronika, a Czech Jewess who spend the war hiding from the Nazis and now works as a chocolady. Both girls are brutally murdered by the Org.

Gunther redeems some of his mysoginistic past by trying to save both girls. And also by taking back his wife after she sold sex for provisions to an American officer.
I wish Veronika had lived though. She went through such suffering at the hands of the Nazis for being Jewish and is then murdered by them two years after the war for working as a prostitute.
like all the other victims of the Nazis , Jews, Gypsies, disabled people, Poles. Gays etc prostitutes too were seen as subhuman
But then society has always treated these women as such and their lives as cheap, I hope and pray one day this may change, but don't think it ever will.
Lastly my major gripe with Gunther is this. He was a member of the SS during the war. And though he did not take direct part in murder of Jews and asked to be transferred to administrative work back in Germany. He was still part of the greatest network of evil in history. So him refusing to go back to the police in Germany because he did not want to work for the Communists strikes me as hypocritical to say the least.
Profile Image for Tim Orfanos.
338 reviews30 followers
February 1, 2021
Στο 3ο και μεγαλύτερο σε έκταση βιβλίο της 'Τριλογίας του Βερολίνου'(1991), o Kerr μάς μεταφέρει στο μεταπολεμικό κλίμα του 'Ψυχρού' Πολέμου (1947) και δημιουργεί, ίσως, ένα από τα καλύτερα και πιο ολοκληρωμένα κατασκοπικά θρίλερ/'νουάρ' αστυνομικά μυθιστορήματα, όπου αποδίδεται με πειστικό και εντυπωσιακό τρόπο η 'ζοφερή' ατμόσφαιρα μιας κατεστραμμένης Γερμανίας στην οποία το ένστικτο επιβίωσης μπορεί να έχει ..... θανατηφόρα αποτελέσματα - γιατί όπως το πολύ εύστοχο σύνθημα σε ένα τοίχο τονίζει: 'Δεν υπάρχει χρόνος για αγάπες'....

Με μεγαλύτερη σιγουριά και μεθοδικότητα από τις 'Βιολέτες του Μάρτη', ο Kerr πλάθει μια συναρπαστική συνέχεια στις περιπέτειες του τυχοδιώκτη-ντιτέκτιβ, Μπέρνχαρντ Γκούντερ, όπου οι συμμαχικές δυνάμεις, οι διπλοί πράκτορες, οι υπηρεσίες αντικατασκοπίας, το κυνήγι των Ναζί εγκληματιών και η πλαστοπροσωπία είναι σε πρώτο πλάνο - το βιβλίο περιέχει και αρκετά σκληρές περιγραφές βασανιστηρίων, όπως και πολλές στιγμές 'στεγνού' κυνισμού και μαύρου χιούμορ.

Οι ήρωες του μυθιστορήματος έχουν διττή υπόσταση: είναι θύτες και θύματα, ταυτόχρονα, ενώ προσπαθούν να σώσουν τους εαυτούς τους, αν όχι τη ψυχή τους, μέσα από ίντριγκες, δολοπλοκίες και συνεργασία, ακόμα, και με αυτόν που θα θεωρούσαν ως 'διάβολο'.

Εντυπωσιάζουν οι περιγραφές των κτιρίων που έχουν καταστραφεί από βομβαρδισμούς, η γλαφυρή αναφορά στη πείνα και την εκπόρνευση στους δρόμους του ισοπεδωμένου Βερολίνου, ενώ, από την άλλη πλευρά, διχάζουν τους αναγνώστες η εμμονή του Kerr στη αναφορά των ονομάτων των δρόμων του Βερολίνου, όπως και των δρομολογίων του Γκούντερ, στοιχεία που θα μπορούσαν να μην υπάρχουν με τέτοια συχνότητα στο βιβλίο - τα πρόσωπα του μυθιστορήματος είναι, επίσης, πολυάριθμα και χρειάζεται προσοχή, κυρίως, κατά την ανάγνωση του 2ου μέρους, για να μην υπάρξει σύγχυση μεταξύ των χαρακτήρων.

Ίσως, το πιο συναρπαστικό και 'χορταστικό' βιβλίο της τριλογίας του Κerr.

Βαθμολογία: 4,5/5 ή 9/10.
Profile Image for Giannis.
111 reviews24 followers
March 3, 2018
Η Τρίτη περιπέτεια του Χερ Γκούντερ, μας βρίσκει σε ένα μεταπολεμικό Βερολίνο, ένα Βερολίνο κατεστραμμένο, απομονωμένο από τους Συμμάχους και με τους κατοίκους του να ζουν πληρώνοντας τα αποτρόπαια εγκλήματα που διέπραξαν οι Ναζί. Ο Μπέρνι θα καταφέρει να μπλεχτεί ξανά σε μία υπόθεση φόνου η οποία θα εξελιχθεί διαφορετικά από ότι συνήθως, κάτι που με ξένιζε ορισμένες φορές και άλλες μου άρεσε. Δεν μπορώ να καταλήξω αν ήταν «σοφή» επιλογή του συγγραφέα να κινηθεί σε διαφορετικά μονοπάτια από τα κλασσικά του «φόνου», αλλά σίγουρα μου κράτησε το ενδιαφέρον μέχρι τις τελευταίες σελίδες.

Αυτό που συνεχίζει να μην μου αρέσει, είναι το πόσο «τέλειος» είναι ο χαρακτήρας. Απίστευτο λαγωνικό, οι γυναίκες να πέφτουν στα πόδια του, οι εχθροί του να τον «θαυμάζουν», και το πιο μεγάλο αρνητικό για εμένα είναι η εύκολη λύση του Kerr να λαμβάνει μέρος ένα γεγονός το οποίο θα αλλάξει πλήρως την τύχη του πρωταγωνιστή! Είναι πολύ «ξενέρωτο» να συμβαίνει κάτι «τυχαίο» που βγάζει από τη δύσκολη θέση τον πρωταγωνιστή μας. Θα προτιμούσα κάτι πιο ρεαλιστικό, εφόσον και το γενικότερο ύφος των βιβλίων του βασίζεται σε αληθινά ιστορικά γεγονότα και την πραγματικότητα. Ένας ντεντέκτιβ-εξολοθρευτής φαντάζει εκτός κλίματος των ίδιων των βιβλίων…

Κατά τα άλλα, πέρασα ευχάριστα διαβάζοντας το και εκτίμησα δεόντως τις πολλές πιστές πληροφορίες που μας έδωσε ο συγγραφέας για εκείνη την περίοδο!
Profile Image for Nigeyb.
1,183 reviews253 followers
March 5, 2018
With ‘A German RequiemPhilip Kerr has saved the best until last, at least in terms of the original Berlin Trilogy ('March Violets’/'The Pale Criminal’/‘A German Requiem’). Ten years after this original trilogy Philip Kerr returned to the character and, in 2006, started to write more Bernie Günther books. At the time of writing this review in 2016, there are currently 11 Bernhard Günther books.

A German Requiem’ is superb. Echoes of the 1949 British film noir classic 'The Third Man’ directed by Carol Reed are all over this book, including a few explicit references to casting and filming a scene. A book/film double bill of ‘A German Requiem’ and 'The Third Man’ would be a wonderful combination.

As with the first two books, it’s the period detail that really elevates ‘A German Requiem’ and the legacy of Nazism, and the dawn of Cold War international intrigue and espionage, are cleverly and dramatically evoked.

Since we last caught up with Bernie, in 1938, he’s got married, reluctantly been employed by the SS, and been a Russian POW lucky to escape with his life. ‘A German Requiem’ is set in 1947. Most of the action in ‘A German Requiem’ takes place in Vienna where nothing is quite what it seems. Ostensibly Bernie is there on a murder investigation but he is soon thrown into a complex, murky world populated by duplicitous Russians, Austrians, Germans, and Americans. The less you know about the plot the better, but suffice to say ‘A German Requiem’ is the most dramatic and surprising book in the trilogy. I’m also pleased to say that the rampant misogyny of the first two books is far more reigned in here, and Bernie emerges as a more rounded, likeable and humane individual, which augers well for the rest of the series.

As a stand alone book ‘A German Requiem’ is a great read, and would still be for a reader with no prior knowledge of Bernie Günther, however it’s when taken as a whole that the achievement of the ‘Berlin Noir: March Violets / The Pale Criminal / A German Requiem’ trilogy becomes apparent. Read together they form a wonderful tale that covers the rise and fall of the Third Reich which brings home the day to day realities of life for a typical German. Bravo Philip Kerr, a brilliant achievement. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

5/5
Profile Image for Alex Cantone.
Author 3 books32 followers
July 29, 2019
1947. In an explosive start, Bernie Günther has returned to Berlin from a Soviet POW camp to find a post-Apocryphal city where food and fuel is in short supply, women clear the streets of debris and people huddle in the basements of bombed buildings, the upper stories unsafe. The former Kripo detective is again making a meagre living as a PI while his wife, a school teacher, works at a cafe frequented by American servicemen where she gains valuable supplies. Günther has a close call with death at the hands of a drunken Russian soldier and is depressed to learn the real reason his wife has assess to supplies.

Enter the suave Russian Colonel Poroshin, with a proposition. Former Kripo detective Becker, now a black-marketeer, is in prison in Vienna, accused of killing an American officer. Becker claims he is innocent and being framed, and Poroshin, owing his life to Becker, intercedes on his behalf, arranging documentation for Günther to travel to Vienna as an import-export consultant, to find the real killer before Becker is hanged. Putting aside his dislike of Becker, Günther takes the assignment, and finds Vienna dreary and false.

There’s nothing the Viennese love more than getting ‘cosy’. They look to achieve this conviviality in bars and restaurants, to the accompaniment off a musical quartet comprising a bass, a violin, an accordion and a zither – a strange instrument which resembles an empty box of chocolates with thirty or forty strings that are plucked like a guitar. For me, this omnipresent combination embodies everything that is phoney about Vienna, like the syrupy sentiment and the affected politeness...

Like Berlin, Vienna is partitioned by the 4 powers – America, England, France and the Soviet Union, and as Günther tracks down a man named König and his girlfriend, he is drawn into the murky world of subterfuge.

‘What a town this is for saying “going-away party” when what you mean is “a requiem mass”. Your “research” sounds rather like my “imports and exports”, Herr König: a fancy ribbon round a very plain cake.’

He finds himself in a dangerous game up against ruthless men, some from his own past, as the old guard still runs the show with new names and alliances, forging a “New Germany”, and he is forced to examine his own culpability in the war years.

There are many who remained uneasy at the way the moral dirt was swept under the carpet. But it is certain that a nation cannot feel collective guilt, that each man must encounter it personally. Only now did I realize the nature of my own...

The third is the Berlin Noire trilogy, A German Requiem was the best, and held my attention from the first page. The dialogue between Günther and Poroshin had me laughing out loud; the streets, cafes and clubs of Vienna intensely-researched. As the body count rises I found it hard to keep pace with who was on which side, and some of the later scenes were disturbing.

Trying to keep one step ahead of all the lies, my own included, I was rapidly coming to the end of my own ingenuity, and I was in danger of losing the tempo of the whole affair. Not to mention my life.

Verdict: One of the best thrillers I have read this year.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,127 reviews96 followers
March 2, 2022
This was an incredible whirlwind with a lot of moving pieces and an unrelenting pace. The story picks up several years after the last book, with WWII now over and Germany carved up between the allies and the Soviets during the very early days of the cold war. It begins with Bernie travelling to Vienna on a murder investigation but quickly metastasizes full on into tale of intrigue and espionage involving rival spy agencies and their efforts to locate Nazi war criminals. The tense, dark and oppressive atmosphere of pre-war Germany from previous books is supplanted by a fractured landscape full of hidden identities, murky loyalties and the pervasive feelings of guilt and despair that weighed heavily on the defeated collective German psyche.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
850 reviews2,087 followers
December 31, 2020
CRITIQUE:

Both Sides (of the War) Now

Of the three novels in the "Berlin Noir Trilogy", I was first attracted to "March Violets" not long after they were published in the omnibus version, though, upon reflection, "A German Requiem" was the most enjoyable and rewarding read, now that I've read all three.

I'm still puzzled as to why none of the first three novels was set in wartime Berlin. The first two were set in Berlin in 1936 and 1938 respectively, while the third was set in Vienna in 1947 and, possibly, as late as 1948 (when the film "The Third Man" was in production). This novel is arguably an homage to "The Third Man", possibly even Graham Greene's screenplay about black marketeers, penicillin, and faked deaths, all of which feature in the novel.

The main character, Bernie Gunther, was imprisoned in a Soviet POW camp for most of the war, which explains his absence from Berlin, and his command of Russian, which gives him credibility with the Soviets.

We don't learn much about what life was like in Berlin during the war itself, apart from the fact that by the end of the war, it was in ruins, architecturally, economically and socially:

"Life amidst the wreckage of Germany was frequently as unsafe as it had been in the last days of the war: a collapsing wall here, an unexploded bomb there. It was still a bit of a lottery."

The Vienna Gambit

When Bernie is offered a lucrative assignment in Vienna, he has plenty of reason to leave. He has just spied his wife, Kirsten, giving an American officer a blow-job in a bombed-out apartment block in the light of the full moon, ostensibly to supplement their meager income.

Berlin was still occupied by the USA, Britain, France and the Soviet Union, all of which managed their respective sectors with cold war dominance and corruption. It's a wonder West Germany or the re-united Germany survived. Austria, the first step in the ratline out of Germany, is just as bad.

Despite the efforts of Nazi hunters, many senior Nazi's and war criminals have been able to re-invent themselves or acquire new identities, which enable them to assume senior roles in the administration (particularly the police forces) of the new Germanies (i.e., both East and West). They plan to work away at these roles, until the time is ripe to re-establish a new Reich. In the West, they fit in because of their fanatical anti-Communism. In the East, they help suppress the local population.

This is the backdrop of the third novel. It moves beyond a police procedural, and assumes the character of a spy novel. There are numerous femme fatales, only they are only marginally less trustworthy than the police and the intelligence officers. It's impossible to tell who's a double agent, who's double-crossing whom, who's manipulating Bernie, or who's zooming who, which might explain the title:

"Whether a man is ready to die or not, his requiem always sounds the same."

Warts and All

The author seems to have got the message about toning down the sexism in the novel after the excesses of "The Pale Criminal". Bernie pines for his wife for most of the novel, though he still keeps a watchful eye on a number of prostitutes (who are described variously as "sparklers" or "chocoladies", depending on their commercial motivation), croupiers and actresses (one of whom obtains a bit part in "The Third Man," which provides an opportunity for some wise-cracking humour):

" 'Isn't it exciting?' she squealed. 'Me acting with Orson Welles.'

"'The War of the Worlds' fellow?'

"She shrugged blankly. 'I never saw that film.'

"Forget it."


As with the male characters (who are all pretty shadowy), it's often hard to differentiate the women, though they seem to switch pretty fluidly from role to role, as Bernie learned with Kirsten.

Ironically, at the end of the novel, Bernie learns that he has caught a venereal disease from his favoured female interest, which hastens his decision to reconcile with Kirsten, warts and all, so to speak.


SOUNDTRACK:
Profile Image for Dave.
2,961 reviews313 followers
September 24, 2017
In Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series, he successfully tells a historical narrative through the means of a hardboiled detective with the dark world of 1930’s Germany forming almost a hardboiled character of itself. The first three books of what later became a dozen novels form what is referred to as the Berlin trilogy, tracing Gunther’s passage through the 1930’s into a dark chapter of evil. The second novel leaves off as Chamberlain loses his last chance to stand up to Hitler and hands over a third of Czechoslovakia without a shot being fired and Kristallnacht , the night of broken glass rages in the German cities. The gates of hell are about to blow open.

Book three picks up the story many years later in 1947 as the few survivors pick their way through the ruins of Berlin and the West begins to realize just what they are facing in Soviet occupied Eastern Europe. The story now is not just surviving in the face of a totalitarian regime, but of different factions betting on the outcome. It’s still a dark dreary world but it’s different and you really need a scorecard to figure out whose on your side. And the scars of the past are hard to hide.

There’s a complex murder case that Gunther is hired to investigate. It’s in Vienna and the story for the most part takes place there. In many ways, this part of the story has all the hallmarks of a classic hardboiled mystery from the explosive violence, the coarseness, the women in the nightclubs, and the late night rendezvouses. But, it’s the historical background that elevates this story to something more than just another murder mystery.
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,695 reviews629 followers
June 23, 2017
For those of you who are not familiar with Kerr or his P.I., Bernie Gunther, I will provide this background. A German Requiem is book three in an ongoing series by Kerr that he started writing about thirty years ago. The series arc begins before World War II and continues long after it. Kerr, unlike many other authors, does not write his stories in chronological sequence. This places a lot of challenge on him to keep the back references consistent and Gunther’s character in line with what he has, at that moment, experienced. Kerr is up to the task. Whether a police or private investigator, Gunther takes a traditional view of crime and criminals. This puts him at odds with the Nazis and later with others who see political crime and scapegoats as more important. He is troubled by injustice and has no “coping mechanism” that allows him to shrug-off his failures…they eat at his soul. Several things emerge from Kerr’s writing and I will note only two here: First is that “his” Berlin is as much a character in many of the stories as any person; second, he (through Gunther) attacks evil as assiduously as gardener attacks invasive plant species. For all the comparisons to other “detectives,” this makes him quite different from most writers of detective fiction.

Let us now begin with the fact that this book’s plot is not centered in Berlin but in Vienna. Berlin has not fared well post-WW II. Divided among four countries for administration, little has been done to clear away the rubble. Prostitution and black-marketing seem the only occupations that can put food on the table. Gunther having been reunited with his wife sees their relationship eroding with the desperation of everyday needs. He works for coal to heat their apartment; she encourages U.S. soldiers for access to their PX foodstuffs. Can this marriage be saved?

This situation is interrupted by an opportunity to make some money by investigating the circumstances of an old Berlin acquaintance who is now being held for murder in Vienna by the American authorities. Gunther, with mixed emotions, accepts the job. Kerr’s confident descriptions of:
Berlin (where a woman is found surviving by eating the fungus off the wall of her apartment);
Rail travel in the Soviet zone (where Gunther is set upon by a Russian soldier); and,
Vienna (where, if you have ever seen the movie, The Third Man, everything is for sale is a world of spy versus spy).

This world is so offensive to Gunther that he can barely carryon. Here is a scene where a taxi-driver attempts to fix him up with a prostitute:
“He chuckled warmly at the thought of it all. ‘I could arrange something for you, sir. In the back of the car. For a small commission of course.’
“I leaned forwards on the seat. I don’t know why I bothered with him. Maybe I just don’t like garter-handlers. Maybe I just didn’t much care for his Trotsky-lookalike face.
“’That would be just great,’ I said very tough. ‘If it weren’t for a Russian table-trap I found in the Ukraine. Partisans put a tension-release trap behind a drawer that they left half-open with a bottle of vodka in there, just to get your attention. I came along, pulled the drawer, the pressure was released and the grenade detonated. It took the meat and two vegetables clean off at my belly. I nearly died from loss of blood. And when finally I came out of the coma I nearly died of grief. I tell you if I so much as see a bit of plum I’m liable to go mad with the frustration of it. I’d probably kill the nearest man to me out of plain envy.’
“The drive glanced back over his shoulder. ‘Sorry,’ he said nervously, ‘I didn’t mean to…’”

This is an example of a grim joke (nothing like this happened to Gunther) that he resorts to in order to cope. Here is another example of Gunther’s quick retorts:

“(He) smiled thinly, ‘Some people keep savage dogs to protect me. I have Rainis.’
“’Yes, well I hope he’s house-trained.’ I took off my hat and wiped my brow with my handkerchief. ‘Me, I wouldn’t let him past the front door. I’d keep him on a chain in the yard. Where does he think he is? Treblinka? The bastard couldn’t wait to shoot me….’”

The violence is raw, though not as frequent as in some noirs. The sex isn’t very warm, when it occasionally appears. Kerr’s gift is to make it all believable. Of his first three novels, I think this is the best. We see some real growth in the character of Bernie Gunther. Kerr masterfully blends the historical figures with the four-power intrigue and the mystery. If we don’t have all the clues in advance, neither does Gunther. The ending is logical and the entire experience (as Nero Wolfe might say) satisfactory.
Profile Image for Ed.
Author 37 books2,690 followers
August 18, 2009
PI Bernie Gunther of post-war Berlin is a Marlowe-type shamus. Lots of Chandler metaphors, quips, and atmosphere. The hard-boiled element is there. Bernie goes to Vienna where he tangles with the Yanks, Brits, "Ivans", French, and Austrians. Shifty alliances and twists drive the plot. Great, intelligent read with first-rate writing. A must for any PI genre fans.
Profile Image for Χρύσα Βασιλείου.
Author 5 books145 followers
June 6, 2016
To "Γερμανικό Ρέκβιεμ" είναι το βιβλίο που κλείνει την 'Τριλογία του Βερολίνου' του Philip Kerr και η ιστορία του διαδραματίζεται το 1947, στη Βιέννη. Έχουν περάσει 10 χρόνια από τις τελευταίες περιπέτειες του Μπέρνι Γκούντερ, και τόσο η δική του ζωή όσο και ο κόσμος όπως τον ήξερε ως ήρωας κι εμείς ως αναγνώστες, έχει αλλάξει. Ο πόλεμος έχει τελειώσει, ο Χίτλερ έχει ηττηθεί και οι Σοβιετικοί με τους Αμερικάνους κάνουν τώρα κουμάντο.

Τα 3 αστεράκια δεν σημαίνουν πως δεν μου άρεσε γενικά το βιβλίο - απλά μου άρεσε λιγότερο απ'τα υπόλοιπα που έχω διαβάσει. Και δεν το περίμενα! Περίμενα να διαβάσω με ενδιαφέρον μια υπόθεση που θα εξελισσόταν στην λατρεμένη μου Βιέννη, κάτω από εντελώς διαφορετικές συνθήκες, χωρίς την ναζιστική Γερμανία του Χίτλερ και του Χίμλερ αυτήν τη φορά στο προσκήνιο. Και είχε πράγματι ενδιαφέρον να διαβάζει κανείς το πώς η άλλοτε πανίσχυρη και 'ψηλομύτα' Γερμανία μετράει τώρα τις πληγές της. Όπως πάντα, ο Kerr παρουσιάζει (ταυτόχρονα με τη μυθιστορηματική του δράση) και το ιστορικό υπόβαθρο της εποχής, κι όπως πάντα καθόλου ωραιοποιημένο.
Όμως, το βιβλίο μου φάνηκε κάπως... μπερδεμένο. 10 χρόνια γεμάτα κενά είναι πολλά, ιδιαίτερα όταν αυτά τα κενά πετάγονται εδώ κι εκεί μέσα στην υπόθεση και δεν είναι πλήρως ανεπτυγμένα. Ο Μπέρνι κουβαλάει φαντάσματα που παραμένουν άγνωστα στον αναγνώστη... Ίσως στα υπόλοιπα βιβλία της σειράς, που δεν έχουν εκδοθεί στα ελληνικά, μαθαίνουμε περισσότερα για την δεκαετία 1938-48. Δεν το έχω ψάξει,αλλά το ελπίζω. Κι η ίδια η ιστορία είναι επίσης μπερδεμένη, και θα έλεγα με έναν τρόπο όχι και τόσο γοητευτικό. Κοινώς, θα έλεγα πως απλά περίμενα να ξετυλιχτεί επιτέλους το κουβάρι της υπόθεσης για να δω τι γίνεται, αλλά δεν είχα καμία όρεξη να το ξετυλίξω η ίδια! Κακό αυτό!
Προσωπικά, πιστεύω πως από το βιβλίο έλειπε μια 'σπίθα' που έχω βρει σε άλλα. Σίγουρα οι εξελίξεις τρέχουν και οι ανατροπές διαδέχονται η μ��α την άλλη, αλλά δεν σκεφτόμουν το στόρυ ακόμα κι όταν δεν είχα το βιβλίο ανοιγμένο μπροστά μου, όπως άλλες φορές. Δεν με ενοχλούσε να το αφήσω στην άκρη για λίγο, όπως άλλες φορές. Δεν με έτρωγαν τα χέρια μου να γυρίσω γρήγορα τις σελίδες, για να δω τι θα γίνει παρακάτω, όπως άλλες φορές...
Αγαπώ τον Μπέρνι Γκούντερ κι αγαπώ τον Kerr και αναγνωρίζω πως όλοι μας έχουμε και τις λιγότερο δυνατές στιγμές μας. Για μένα, μια τέτοια στιγμή είναι και το "Ρέκβιεμ". Οπωσδήποτε χάρηκα να μάθω τα μεταπολεμικά νέα του Μπέρνι, αλλά επίσης οπωσδήποτε τα προπολεμικά νέα του και αυτά που ακολούθησαν τις επόμενες δεκαετίες και παρουσιάζονται στα επόμενα βιβλία μου φάνηκαν πολύ πιο ενδιαφέροντα.
Profile Image for Jim Harris .
49 reviews15 followers
January 8, 2019
Powerful historical fiction. Kerr transports you to a place and time many of have only heard vaguely about. Nazis, war, recovery, wrapped up in a good mystery. Philip Kerr created an excellent storyteller in Bernie.
Profile Image for Steve.
786 reviews218 followers
March 30, 2021
In this third entry of Kerr's Bernie Gunther series, we find a very different, post-war Gunther trying to survive in a grim Berlin. Gunter is now married, but both him and his wife seemed more concerned with survival (food, heat) than anything else. Compromises are made to just get through the day, as Bernie discovers his wife trading sex with an American officer, for food. Rather than confront her with this information, Bernie takes on a case, in Vienna, from, interestingly, a Russian intelligence officer. It involves an old comrade from Bernie's police, and later, SS days. Bernie's no Nazi, but he did abandon a few principles in order survive the war, one of which was a brief stint with the SS. (Bernie saw the beginnings of what was going to be the Holocaust, and transferred out.) Nevertheless, he would get a full dose the Hell that was the Russian Front, and a Russian P.O.W prison. But the new order of things is similarly lethal. You don't know who to trust, as Bernie has dealings with Russian, American, old (and brutal) Nazi agents, and other rogue characters. The Vienna Kerr paints is, if you've seen The Third Man , a familiar one of grays and blacks and side glances. (You even get a glimpse of the famous movie being filmed.) I was actually rating this effort lower (3 stars), in part because I didn't like the pacing for two thirds of the novel. It seemed off compared to its two cracker-jack predecessors. But it also seemed off due to Bernie himself. Was this even the same character? By novel's end I became somewhat convinced of his changes, his deepening. Apparently Gunter has had some spiritual stirrings due to what he has seen and lived through. Nothing dramatic, but to my mind ever-present, like a faint thread that remains intact throughout the novel. And that it made it all the more believable. Gunther's "faith" is no moving conversion story, but more like a helpful life preserver in a cynical hellscape. A different kind of Bernie Gunther novel, but definitely a Bernie Gunter novel.
Profile Image for paper0r0ss0.
648 reviews42 followers
December 14, 2021
La Seconda Guerra Mondiale e' appena finita, e la Germania e' in ginocchio. La nazione che aveva dichiarato guerra al mondo terrorizzandolo e' distrutta e le macerie riempiono ovunque l'orizzonte. L'investigatore Bernie Gunther, qui al terzo episodio della serie, e' allo sbando come tutti i suoi connazionali. Non e' mai stato nazista, anche quando era difficile non esserlo, ma ora e' comunque costretto a doversi inventare qualcosa pur di vivere alla giornata. Accetta cosi' la pericolosa indagine sulla morte di un capitano americano che lo porta a Vienna. Una Vienna divisa tra i nuovi padroni del mondo, americani e russi, che hanno scelto questo teatro per mettere in scena un nuovo conflitto latente. Tra spie, doppiogiochisti, ex nazisti in cerca di riscossa e poveri diavoli che cercano di sbarcare il lunario, Gunther si trovera' costretto a piu' di un equilibrismo per poter riportare a casa la pelle. Un po' prolisso e meno scorrevole dei precedenti e' sempre pero' una piacevole lettura. Come sempre la ricostruzione storica e' ammirevole e i dialoghi azzeccati.
Profile Image for James.
478 reviews25 followers
April 29, 2018
Another excellent entry in the Bernie Gunther series —#3, set mostly in post WWII Austria.

With every page I was deeply impressed with the late Philip Kerr’s ability not only to realistically set his story in the world that existed in 1947, but to get the reader invested in characters who were, at a minimum, witness to unspeakable barbarism, if not actual participants.

Profile Image for Razvan Banciu.
839 reviews45 followers
September 30, 2018
There is a slight difference between this novel and the former ones, as the action has more density and Bernie (almost to the end) makes fewer jokes. The interpenetration reality-fiction makes the book more interesting, characters are alive,the style is pleasant, there was some research work done by Mr. Kerr, all of these facts taken together make quite a fine book.
Profile Image for Pamela.
1,255 reviews
August 9, 2018
Bernie Gunther takes on an assignment in Vienna, where a former colleague from the Kripo is facing a death sentence for the murder of an American soldier. Gunther soon concludes that both his colleague and the American were involved in shady dealings, maybe the flourishing black market or perhaps some kind of espionage, but the further he digs, the more loose ends and contradictions he uncovers.

I found this book less enjoyable than the previous two in this series (originally a trilogy which Philip Kerr later extended). Its main strength lies in its skilful use of well-researched period detail, and the depiction of post-War Vienna is fascinating. Likewise the comparison of its decay and ruin with Berlin, the similarities and differences in the fate of these two great cities being woven brilliantly into the narrative. There are also clever references to the film industry, Orson Welles and the film 'The Third Man'.

However, the plot is rather convoluted, sometimes unnecessarily so, and I found myself thinking at the end that it was all rather pointless. With the previous books, I quickly became intrigued and then engaged and then totally engrossed, with this book I read cheerfully to the end without really caring too much what the solution was.

With Bernie Gunther, I also personally find it's best to read his accounts of his sexual encounters as quickly as possible and then put them out of my mind - somehow they are more brutal and unpleasant than the scenes of violence and less easy to accept in the context of the plot. I appreciate that Gunther is an anti-hero figure, but there's a lack of subtlety in this aspect of Kerr's writing that jars with how he demonstrates his skill elsewhere.

Overall, not a bad read and I will definitely continue with the series, but not my favourite.
Profile Image for Toby.
828 reviews325 followers
February 15, 2012
This one felt more like a history lesson than a noir thriller, Bernie Gunther basically behaving like a tour guide through post war atrocities than as a German Marlowe.

There's some kind of convoluted plot involving multiple parties with dubious morals and an elastic sense of who is working with/for whom, there's so much back stabbing and double crossing going on simply serving as a stream of red herrings and the padding out of the book to it's longer than previous entries page count.

The blurb talks about a legacy of dirt and horror beyond anything Gunther had previously experienced and I spent the entire novel waiting to be shocked or appalled or horrified or...somebody get me a thesaurus? I wasn't, and Bernie didn't seem to be. In many ways it had a similar plot to Graham Greene's The Third Man which was referenced both directly and indirectly multiple times throughout this trip to Vienna but it replaced the sparse nature with an unwarranted bloatedness and class with a more honest vulgarity and A German Requiem comes off looking worse for it.

I sure hope the 4th Bernie Gunther installment returns it to it's previous glory, especially the fun hard boiled aspect of March Violets or I may not read the rest of the series.
Profile Image for Melinda.
667 reviews
March 9, 2013
Book 3 is "Requiem", which takes place after the war, mostly in Vienna. In many ways it is the least sexist and yet somehow falls flat to me. Again a lot of intricate plotting, but It's not hard to follow. This one moves right into Dashiell Hammett's nameless detective, even referring to various of his books again.
Here's a quote that feels to me much like a rewrite of the end Sam Spade speech from "The Maltese Falcon" where he tells the girl why he has to do things the way he does. This is from "Requiem":
"I'm no knight in shining armour. Just a weather-beaten man in a crumpled overcoat on a street corner with only a grey idea of something you might as well go ahead and call Morality. Sure, I'm none too scrupulous about the things that might benefit my pocket, and I could no more inspire a bunch of young thugs to do good works than I could stand up and sing a solo in the church choir. But of one thing I was sure. I was through looking at my fingernails when there were thieves in the store."
Overall, I guess I don't find Kerr a very good writer. He's sexist and derivative, and while he can do some good plotting and physical descriptions of places- actually very good-to me, the bad outweighs the good.

Profile Image for Marty Fried.
937 reviews90 followers
March 3, 2017
This book takes place just after WW2, mostly in Vienna. Bernie is now a private detective, living in Berlin. He gets hired to try to prove that an old associate of his did not kill some American, fighting against the clock to save him from the death penalty, coming up fast. A lot of things come up along the way, and it's never certain just who's in charge, who's the vilain, and who's going to die. But as usual, Bernie seems to be one of the few who finds all the answers.
Profile Image for Sabrina.
458 reviews13 followers
May 8, 2022
After the rise of the Nazis, covered by the first two books of the Berlin Noir Series the last one A German Requiem makes a jump to the fall of the “Dritte Reich”. At first, I was a bit taken aback by this new development, especially because I missed 7 years from our private investigator’s life that were none too irrelevant as there was a World War going on. We got a few titbits here and there, but my curiosity was in no way satisfied. One fact particularly picked my interest and I think this particular “thing” made him much more likeable to me. At least, the male hormones seemed a bit tamer and I was less disturbed. Maybe the books before also were more about hinting how everyone completely lost it and tried to find their way back at being human after the war?

But back to the story. While the mystery did not captivate me that much, I was fascinated by the historical information such as Also the development between the West and Russia provided quite some background to today…

“I doubt if anyone’s got the stomach for another one”
“Not yet, maybe. But people forget, and in time – ‘he shrugged’ – who knows what may happen?

And that is exactly why these novels need to be read. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Frank.
1,876 reviews20 followers
October 30, 2018
Finished the third and final book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, A German Requiem. This one, in my opinion, was probably the best of the three and definitely the most complex. It takes place in 1947 and 1948 in post-war Berlin and Vienna. Bernie had managed to escape from a Russian prison camp where he spent the last part of the war and he and his wife are trying to eke out an existence in the war-savaged Berlin of 1947. Not only is the city almost totally destroyed but it is also being held hostage by the Russian Communists. His wife does whatever it takes to make ends meet and some of this does not set well with Bernie. He agrees to travel to Vienna at the behest of a high-ranking Russian officer to try to prove the innocence of Bernie's old colleague from Kripo, Emil Becker, who is accused of killing an American Counter Intelligence officer. But is this the real purpose of sending Bernie to Vienna. He ends up getting enmeshed in the operations of the Americans and the Russians and a plot where the Americans may be using ex-Nazi war criminals in their beginning cold war against the Communists. The story was very engaging and emphasized the hardship of post-war conditions in Germany and Austria, occupation by the Allied Powers, espionage activities between them, and the secret post-war resurgence of Nazi war criminals.
Profile Image for David Lowther.
Author 5 books27 followers
November 10, 2017
A German Requiem is the third Bernie Günther story and was part of Philip Kerr's trilogy Berlin Noir. It's the second time I've read it and I was not disappointed. Bernie finds himself in Vienna, employed by the Russians to find out who murdered an American captain. Accused of the murder is Bernie's old colleague Becker whom our hero remembers with no fondness at all. However, he needs the money and becomes involved a plot which, despite its twists and turns, unfolds brilliantly with surprise climax.

The narrative ends against the background of the filming of The Third Man, the best ever British movie. The author captures the dark wet feel of Vienna in 1948 where nobody is to be trusted in a city jointly under the control of the victorious allies. Bernie quickly finds this to be true and he appears to be constantly under the threat of violence or imprisonment.

As usual Günther, who narrates the adventure, is cynical but not so much as in later novels. Here he appears to suffer from the collective war guilt that most Germans experienced in the years after the war.

A German Requiem is a very fine and exciting tale.

David Lowther. Author of The Blue Pencil, Liberating Belsen, Two Families at War and The Summer of '39, all published by Sacristy Press.
Profile Image for John Mchugh.
226 reviews
April 2, 2020
The last of three Philip Kerr novels in my hefty paperback. The trilogy concludes in Vienna. It's been a real adventure for me to get to know Bernie Gunther and Kerr's writing, book by book. The concluding novel is currently my favorite. It has an abundance of intrigue, action, character revelation/growth all wrapped into a vivid description of life in post WWII Vienna which, like Berlin, is now occupied by the victorious foreign powers. There's a long, graceful and well-constructed conclusion. And endings, as most fiction writers will tell you, ain't easy. But all of the story's loose ends just click into place. Kerr's writing, like his sense of place, just seems to get better as time goes by. That said, I think I need a break from my mystery binge (Chandler/MacDonald/Kerr). John Updike and P. G. Wodehouse here I come.
August 4, 2022
Viena, 1947-ieji. Privatus seklys B. Giunteris gavo naują užduotį - įrodyti, kad senas jo bendradarbis nėra kaltas dėl amerikiečių karininko mirties. Kaltinamasis Bekeris dirbo organizacijoje, persekiojančioje nacius, sekė karo nusikaltėlius, priklausė vienai įtakingai organizacijai. Apgaulės būdu patekęs į pastarąją, B. Giunteris akis į akį susiduria su vyrais, apgaudinėjančiais teisėsaugą.

Ech, kaip buvau pasiilgusi gero detektyvo, o šio pasirodymo - ypač laukiau (po praeitos dalies „Beveidis nusikaltėlis“)! Romanai, tikros istorijos, dramos ir kiti panašūs žanrai yra gerai, galima daug ko pasimokyti, gauti įkvėpimo, bet kartais norisi kažko tokio, kas padėtų pailsėti nuo santykių dilemų ir sukrečiančių istorijų, o vietoj to - padėtų panirti į ieškojimų ir mįslių transą. Bernio Giunterio tyrimai yra ta detektyvinių knygų serija, kurios kiekvieną dalį skaitydamas net nepastebi, kaip greitai kūrinys atsiduria finišo tiesiojoje ir visi taškai byloje sudėliojami ant „i“.

Neabejoju, kad kai kuriems gali pasirodyti, kad tai nėra lengvai skaitomas kūrinys, kadangi esti ir istorinis kontekstas, ir ne vienas veikėjas, kuris čia vaidina svarbią rolę (visus juos reikia įsidėmėti ir nepasiklysti jų gausoje), o kur dar visi kiti aspektai, būdingi detektyvinio žanro istorijai. Omenyje turiu patį vykdomą tyrimą, įnirtingas nusikaltėlio paieškas, kitas mįsles ir siužetą, kupiną netikėtų staigmenų. Tiems, kurie mano panašiai į tai, ką įvardijau anksčiau, norėčiau pasakyti: taip tikrai nėra - istorija skaitosi greitai, maloniai, su šypsena veide (dėl siužete vyraujančios charizmos) ir neleidžia atitraukti akių.

Kad aš jaučiu silpnybę istoriniams dalykams, žino visi akylesni mano apžvalgų skaitytojai. Iš pradžių gali būti sunku patikėti (kalbu iš savo patirties), bet rašytojas P. Kerr sugebėjo ne tik sukurti istorinį kontekstą ar tarp kitko, visos istorijos fone, pakalbėti apie Antrąjį Pasaulinį karą, vėliau - apie prasidėjusius pokario metus, bet ir pačias bylas, nusikaltimo motyvus susieti su istoriniais faktais, su kare dalyvavusiomis šalimis, su jų tarpusavio santykiais. Žinokite, atrodo, lyg skaitytum tuo laikotarpiu iš tiesų vykusį tyrimą, o ne išgalvotą - rašytojo fantazijos vaisių, lyg būtum ne pašalinis asmuo, o tiesioginis jo dalyvis.

Skaitytojai, kurie yra skaitę kitas šios knygų serijos dalis, jau puikiai žino, kad tikrų tikriausia istorijos pažiba - pats privatus seklys B. Giunteris. Charizmatiškas, nevengiantis laidyti savotiškus ir sarkastiškus juokelius, o taip pat protingas ir įsiveliantis į kvapą gniaužiančius ir mirtimi galinčius pasibaigti reikalus. Tačiau šioje dalyje mano jausmai pagrindinio herojaus atžvilgiu buvo dviprasmiški. Vieną vertus, iš pradžių jo gailėjausi dėl žmonos nederamo poelgio (išdavystės), bet, kitą vertus, vėliau gaila nebebuvo - pats veikėjas pasuko nederamu keliu.

Būtent ši dalis, kaip man pakuždėjo „Goodreads“ programėlė, pirmą kartą buvo išleista 1991 metais. Šis faktas, prisipažinsiu, ne juokais nustebino, kadangi pats tekstas yra labai šiuolaikiškas, rišlus, turiningas, nenuobodus, nestokojantis humoro, o taip pat temų, kurios aktualios nūdienoje. Kalbant apie pačias temas, detektyvas paliečia ir neištikimybės aktualijas, ir kruopščiai sukurptas melagystes, ir laisvės kainą, ir karo pasekmes/šešėlius kasdienybėje, ir širdį slegiantį jausmą, padarius vienokį ar kitokį nusikaltimą, ir mokėjimą nutylėti tai, ką vertėtų išsakyti kuo garsiau.

Rekomenduoju, jeigu mėgstate istorines knygas, o taip pat - detektyvus. Pastaruosius du dalykus mėgstantiems skaitytojams Bernio Giunterio tyrimai yra idealus pasirinkimas, kadangi knygoje itin jaučiamas skoningas šių dviejų dalykų kontrastas. Siūlau, jeigu pasiilgote kokybiško ir įtraukiančio detektyvo su kuriuo ilgas vasaros ar rudens vakaras tikrai neprailgs. Na, o tie, kurie žavisi išskirtiniais pagrindiniais veikėjais, taip pat turėtų nepraleisti pro akis šio kūrinio - B. Giunteris viena iš tų specifinių asmenybių, kuri iš vienos pusės norisi mėgti, bet iš kitos pusės - peikti už nederamą elgesį.

4/5⭐
Profile Image for Dimitris Kopsidas.
221 reviews8 followers
November 22, 2021
Ευκολοδιάβαστο, σκοτεινό νουάρ με φόντο τις "απελευθερωμένες" πόλεις του Βερολίνου και της Βιέννης μετά τη πτώση του ναζισμού. Περίπλοκη υπόθεση με ενέσεις κυνισμού και χιούμορ σε ικανοποιητικές δόσεις. Ιστορικά ενδιαφέρον και με ένα πρωταγωνιστή που αγαπάς να αντιπαθείς.

7,5/10
518 reviews1 follower
August 30, 2019
I know, I know, I'm breaking my own reading rule again. I did not read the Bernie Gunther books in order, but frankly, I don't think it's inhibited my enjoyment. I love Kerr's writing (and yet another favorite author of mine is gone now...). I haven't been to the cities he uses as settings, but I hope his descriptions are accurate enough that my imagination isn't too deceived.

The storyline in the synopsis is adequate so I won't rehash. Kerr has created Bernie Gunther. He is not perfect and perhaps that's why I like him so much. I think we can see a bit of ourselves in him. Not the violence (there's a fair amount of that - buckle up), hopefully, but more the struggles he endures as he goes through whatever obstacles are in front of him. For example, should he condemn his wife for whatever she does to provide little luxuries for the two of them in post-war Germany? Should he be lenient in his judgment of people he meets in the course of solving a case? There are times when Bernie reviews what's happened well after the point of no return. The fact that he thinks about it all is positive.

There are times listening to Kerr's books can be challenging. John Lee is magnificent as the narrator, in my opinion; it's the long list of characters and subplots with subplots that can be confusing. It's not wise to take notes while driving, so there are some minor rewinds and talking to the CD (What the heck? Who is that again?) that can make me look strange to other drivers, I'm sure.

Add Philip Kerr to your list of authors to read/listen to - you won't be disappointed.
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