All good things come to an end, and sadly this is the final volume of the excellent Bernie Gunther series. Philip Kerr sadly passed away last Spring, and .a very warm and heartfelt tribute to him from friend and fellow author Ian Rankin introduces this, his final bow..
This novel doesn’t continue chronologically from the previous volumes, as Kerr didn’t want to end the series with a lonely,ageing Gunther adrift somewhere in Europe..Instead, and unlike recent novels which are mostly set post World War II, this tale takes us back to the beginning, to 1928, the era of the Weimar Republic, when a young Bernie is first seconded to Berlin’s homicide department. The Berlin of that era is virtually synonymous with decadence and debauchery, where the rich play while the dispossessed beg on the streets.When a series of prostitutes are murdered the authorities don’t give it the highest priority, until the next victim turns out to be the daughter of the head of the city’s major criminal gang, whose father wants revenge. As more murders follow, including those of disabled war veterans, it seems someone is intent on clearing the streets of anyone who doesn’t fit their image of a perfect German.Meanwhile Populism is rife, and the constant background noise of Nazi voices is fast becoming a clamour that threatens to drown out everything and everyone else. Kerr once said that in each novel he tried to paint Gunther into a moral corner, from which he couldn’t escape without getting paint on his shoes. That’s the case again here as Bernie, one of life’s perennial survivors, is caught in the crossfire between doing the right thing and staying alive – a tricky balancing act indeed!
A taut thriller with Gunther’s trademark world weary cynicism combined with a healthy dose of black humour – all the right ingredients for another good read. Overall, this work is a fine and fitting epitaph for an author whose work has given me so many hours of enjoyment over the years.
Length of Read:Long
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Fans of this series or of police procedurals in general, especially ones like this with a bit of an unusual twist.
One thing you’ve learned
This is a book I was almost reluctant to begin, knowing it was the final one, and this would be the last we would read of this enigmatic, morally ambiguous, Chandleresque character. It’s maybe not quite Kerr’s very best work, with a few rough edges evident at times, but given the circumstances under which it was written, it’s still very good and far better than we had any right to expect, and.I can’t pay a higher tribute to the author than that.