By Sean Browne
Bernie Gunter was a former soldier from the First World War and in peacetime, he becomes a Kriminalpolizei inspector with the Berlin Police, however, he leaves all of that behind to become a private detective specialising in missing person cases.
The first three novels – March Violets, The Pale Criminal and A German Requiem – are contained in one volume entitled Berlin Noir written between 1989 and 1991. The first two novels are set to the backdrop of a corrupt and ruthless Nazi regime the last in the defeated state, which survives on a thriving black market and prostitution.
Bernie is no Nazi and treats both officials and criminals alike, using his intuition and guile to get himself out of the tightest of situations.
March Violets, is set in 1936 when a wealthy industrialist, Herr Six, employs Bernie Gunther to investigate the murder of his daughter and her husband, along with the theft of jewels from their safe. The author uses the setting of pre-war Berlin with cameo appearances of real-life characters, such as Goering and Heydrich.
The Pale Criminal is set in 1938 where Bernie is ‘asked’ to re-join his old Kripo unit in order to investigate the ritual murders of young girls on the streets of Berlin. The plot follows Bernie through from the concentration camp at Dachau, to the events of Kristallnacht, with a nod to Himmler’s interest in the Norse occult.
A German Requiem has a different feel about it. It is now 1947 and the war has changed everything, leaving Berlin in ruins and Bernie attempting to earn a living in a city reduced to rubble. When he is asked to help an old acquaintance, now facing the death penalty for shooting an American, he travels to Vienna. Helped, and hampered, by the opposing forces of the Russians and the Americans, he attempts to discover who is hiding the truth – and which of his old comrades are in hiding.
If you enjoy these novels there are now fourteen different titles available in this series and they often move around through time from 1928 -1957 so there are web pages that tell you in which order to read them.
Philip Kerr died in 2018 so the last book Metropolis is where the series ends.
Philip Kerr created a character that has entertained and enthralled and there is even talk of an HBO film. Such names as Klaus Maria Brandauer and Michael Fassbender have both expressed interest in the role of Bernie Gunther.