My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Bernie Gunther series recounts the adventures and cases of one Bernard “Bernie” Gunther, private detective, State Policeman, SS police officer, and on into the postwar era. March Violets is the first volume of the Bernie Gunther series and the Berlin Noir trilogy– apparently the author, Phillip Kerr, wrote the first three in roughly quick succession and then wrote some other things and the fan base started clamoring for more Bernie. There are now a dozen of them. Bernie Gunther is an interesting type, although not exactly a unique one in fiction. He is a basically moral individual, working as a private investigator, roughly 38 years of age, a widower, and a former State Policeman. In some respects, a classic noir archetype. In others, he is quite unique. You see, this novel is set in late 1930s Nazi Germany, on the eve of the Berlin Olympiad. Bernie is called in to help a powerful industrialist, Hermann Six, solve a robbery and murder of his daughter and son-in-law. As the case unfolds, gradually Bernie discovers more and more layers to the secret, some of which go to the highest circles of power in Nazi Germany.
I got hooked on this book and read it in record time, because it was a mix of familiar and unfamiliar, a rewiring of the classic detective with a heart of gold set in the midst of one of the most evil regimes in history. One feature of Kerr’s prose is that he liberally sprinkles his novels with real historical characters and authentic sounding fictional ones. He also doesn’t write novels in a sequence. One is set before the war, another during, another after the war.. but later ones will jump all over the time period. As a die-hard history fanatic, I appreciated the appearance of Goering, Himmler and Heydrich in the story, and the backdrop of the Olympiad. I found March Violets to be very engaging and a real page turner. I rapidly polished of the Berlin Noir trilogy and am taking a break before reading more– I don’t want to overdose.
I would not hesitate to recommend the entire Berlin Noir trilogy, for starters.