A pair of reissues from the back catalogue of the late Philip Kerr. Both were written in the period between 1991 and 2006 when the Bernie Gunther novels were put aside as the author tried new directions. Indeed neither of these works bears any resemblance to that acclaimed series, unlike Hitler’s Peace, reprinted earlier this year, where there were some marked similarities on show.
A Philosophical Investigation, originally published in 1992, is a thriller set in what was then the future, 2013. New technology developed by the government has allowed potentially violent people to be identified by DNA testing so treatments can be administered, but a serial killer is eliminating those with this propensity before they have committed any crimes. This novel is part detective story, as the police seek to catch the perpetrator, and part futuristic thriller – the setting in a way has similar overall ideas to Ian Rankin’s early novel Westworld (reprinted last year), so it’s almost as if both authors, who subsequently went on to create hugely successful detective series, fancied trying their hand at this genre as they cut their literary teeth. This is a cleverly plotted novel, worth a look, although some parts do seem a little dated now.
The Shot (originally from 1999), by contrast, is a political thriller set in the US in 1960. As the cold war ramps up, Castro is a thorn in the side of President Kennedy, but it is the Mafia who come up with a plot to assassinate the Cuban leader. However, a complex series of double crosses by the hired hitman leads to a different figure finding himself in the firing line. An interesting effort in the alternate history genre with an intriguing twist at the end.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Thrillers in general, Kerr’s other novels – Kindle users note that three Gunther novels (The One From The Other, A Quiet Flame, If The Dead Rise Not) have recently been published as a combined volume ‘Berlin Noir 2’ for a mere tenner – a real bargain.
One thing you’ve learned
I think during this period Kerr was trying out different styles of writing, not wanting to be typecast and still finding his feet as he sought to discover which genre would suit him best. Both these novels are decent beach reads, but don’t expect anything remotely like the Bernie Gunther series with which the author eventually found his very successful niche in the literary world.