Between 1991 and 2006 Philip Kerr put his best known creation, Bernie Gunther, on hold and published a number of standalone novels. This title originally appeared in 1995, although for some reason it was never published in the UK, and in fact part of the plot (a massacre in a Polish forest) resurfaced in the 2013 Gunther novel A Man Without Breath. Being a huge Gunther fan, I approached this book with some trepidation, but it turns out my fears were unfounded as this is a very good read in the spy thriller/ alternate history vein. It’s a fast paced tale that keeps you turning the pages, and is set in 1943 as Hitler realises he can’t win the Second World War and puts out feelers for a negotiated peace with Russia and the US, with only Churchill refusing to play ball. The main protagonist, a US agent doubling as Roosevelt’s special envoy to the proposed peace talks, does bear many similarities to Bernie Gunther, and at times it’s easy to forget you’re not reading a novel in that series. As was typical of those books, this one also merges fact with fiction, and is populated by a whole range of real historical figures and events, and indeed in the afterword Kerr describes the events that actually occurred at the time that form the basis of this story. Overall, it’s a good read – maybe the main character lacks some of Gunther’s trademark humanity and world-weariness, and at times the plot stretches credulity to the limit, but as there’ll be no more Gunther novels this book, now published here for the first time, certainly makes a very acceptable substitute.
Length of Read:Long
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Alternative history, thrillers, the Bernie Gunther series.
One thing you’ve learned
Kerr and his creation Bernie Gunther really are irreplaceable in this genre.