About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A German Requiem by Philip Kerr

A German Requiem by Philip Kerr - A German Requiem is the third book in the Bernie Gunther series and the Berlin Noir collection. I cannot recall reading three books in a row by the same author in the last 15 years. I have found when I read more than one book in a series consecutively I find myself losing interest. It was different with Berlin Noir. I was as eager to complete A German Requiem as I had been to finish March Violets, the first of the trio. The 835 pages of the three books just glided by.

I was caught off-guard by A German Requiem. With March Violets being set in 1936 and A Pale Criminal in 1938 I was expecting A German Requiem to be set during World War II. I wondered what Bernie would be doing with real crime amidst the murderous excesses of Nazi Germany.

Instead, the book is set in 1947. Bernie is back in a devastated Berlin working again as a private detective. He has received his denazification certificate. What he did during the war will be discussed in my next two posts.

An even greater surprise is that Bernie has married since A Pale Criminal. His wife, Kirsten, is working in Johnny’s American Bar which only admits American First Three Graders from the occupying American forces. Many evenings she returns home with some PX items.

Bernie and Kirsten are just scrapping by in a city now divided between the Four Occupying Powers. While they remain together the marriage is strained.

Recovering from a hangover is hastened when Bernie answers a knock on the door to find a Russian colonel, Palkovnik Poroshin, visiting him. Having just had a violent encounter with a Russian soldier Bernie is worried about the purpose of the visit. He relaxes briefly when Poroshin says he is there to discuss a mutual friend, Emil Becker. (Bernie had worked with Becker in A Pale Criminal.)

Poroshin, a colonel in Russian intelligence, wants to retain Bernie to help clear Becker who has been charged with the murder of a Captain Linden in the American army in Vienna. Becker has been involved in shifty dealings.

After initially refusing Bernie accepts the proposal. Bernie has had a series of reluctant services to the powerful.

Becker will hang unless Bernie can find evidence that would clear him.

Poroshin provides the funds and authorizations and Bernie takes the train to Vienna. He finds a city barely touched by the war when compared with Berlin. The difference can be summed up by what is available in his simple pension:

The place was warm and there seemed to be a never-ending supply of hot water – an unaccustomed luxury. I had not long finished a bath, the duration of which even Marat might have baulked at, when there was a knock at my sitting-room door, …

Bernie’s task is challenging for he must find evidence that shows false evidence has been assembled against Becker. No case is harder than trying to prove an accused has been framed.

Bernie starts his investigation and immediately encounters representatives of both the American Army and the American Military Intelligence Agency. They do not share information freely.

Bernie is a weary man. The time he spent as a Russian POW was draining. Going back to Berlin has been stressful. Existing in post-war Germany is exhausting as everyone struggles to find food and accommodation.

What Bernie finds goes back to the War and its consequences. While the Third Reich has perished there are still a lot of Nazis around and Bernie knows many of them.

While appreciating the comforts of Vienna Bernie can barely keep track of all the treachery around him. Everyone is scheming. The black market is flourishing. While the war is over intrigue never ends.

A German Requiem, despite the difficulty of life in post-war Europe, is not as grim as March Violets and A Pale Criminal. I was grateful there was finally a glimmer of hope for the future in Germany.
 Kerr, Philip – (2004) - Dark Matter; (2016) - March Violets; (2016) - The Pale Criminal


  1. I'm not surprised you found yourself immersed in these books, Bill, I think Kerr did such an authentic and interesting portrait of the time and place that it's easy to be drawn in. I'm impressed, too, by the way that (at least for me) Kerr manages to write noir fiction without making it hopelessly bleak. And Bernie Gunther really is a fascinating character, too.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I want to learn more about Bernie. I am wondering if any of the books will actually not be bleak.

  2. I'm glad you're enjoying these books, and impressed that you are piling them on one after the other! I have read one of them and really should try another...

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I know I will be reading more in the series.