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Monday, September 06, 2010

If The Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr

If The Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr
A Bernie Gunther novel

This novel takes place in 1934 in Berlin, Germany. Bernie Gunther is a prior German policeman who is 1/4 Jew. It has come to a point that he is going to have to address the fact that his Grandmother was Jewish due to the German discrimination. He is now the hotel detective for the Adlon Hotel. His routine inquiry into the theft of a Chinese box from a hotel guest named Max Reles, a German-American from New York, gets complicated. At the same time America is contemplating whether or not to boycott the coming 1936 Olympics that are being held in Berlin. Some of the envoys from America get to Germany to check out the stories they hear about the open hostilities for the Jews. But they are wined and dined by spinners who take them only where they want them to go and they know how to grease palms. So they go back to America with a sunny report. American Jewish reporter Noreen Charalambides and agrees to promote a U.S. boycott of the Olympics by telling the real story about the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews. She is a friend of the owner of the Adlon Hotel and Hedda asks Bernie to squire Noreen around and show her the truth. Bernie has no problem with that since the married Mrs. Charalambides is a real looker.

Kerr has developed Bernie Gunther into a real gum shoe detective. Gunther is a German Philip Marlowe and I could see this in my imagination as a typical film noir from the 1930's. Hard boiled crime fiction was pioneered by Carroll John Daly in the mid-1920s, popularized by Dashiell Hammett over the course of the decade, and refined by Raymond Chandler beginning in the late 1930s. Kerr is fashioning his Gunther novels in this genre. Even the dialogue is very "Sam Spade". Gunther is always tough and cool. His humor is dark and he says what he means around anyone even though he's in the middle of Germany in 1934 and he hates Nazis. And he can back up what he says with his fists or a gun. He's cocky and flippant and falls for the sexpot girl.

If you like this kind of book, then maybe Kerr is for you. I thought it was a little silly, overdone. I didn't like Gunther or Noreen and they were the main characters. I read a 1/3 of it and then gave it up.

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