MysteryPeople Review: PRUSSIAN BLUE by Philip Kerr

9780399177057Philip Kerr comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest Bernie Gunther novel, Prussian Blue, on Saturday, April 8th at 6 PM. You can find copies of Prussian Blue on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Philip Kerr has always excelled at highlighting the small crimes within the large crime, usually through his character Bernie Gunther’s quixotic attempts to help bring justice to individuals under the governance of the Third Reich. Despite acting under the orders of a high-ranking Nazi, Gunther gets called in to work when the Nazi leadership is in need of a professional detective to solve a crime, rather than assigning blame to a convenient scapegoat. Gunther, in each of Kerr’s works, gets his kicks and preserves his own safety by pitting Nazis against one another or in later settings, playing every side of the Cold War.

In his latest, Prussian BlueKerr hearkens back to his earliest Gunther novels with a pre-war setting that highlights the massive kleptocracy and constant in-fighting of Nazi higher-ups. A man is assassinated inside of a highly protected compound in a mountain village destined to become Hitler’s new headquarters. Nazi leadership, fearful that an attempt may be made on Hitler’s life, hire Bernie Gunther to independently investigate the crime, and send him to the surreal, construction-filled Nazi paradise of Obersalzberg to find who’s responsible.

Upon his arrival, Bernie quickly realizes that the new Nazi overlords of the town have quickly made themselves unpopular through the massive dispossession of beautiful mountain properties. Much of the town would be happy to see the Nazis go, and take their garish architecture and dangerous construction sites with them. While many of the townspeople easily possess the level of animosity necessary for murder, Gunther suspects the shots came from inside Hitler’s palace compound, and investigates one Nazi after another for his first locked-compound mystery since Prague Fatale. Gunther’s under a tight time crunch as he works to find the real murderer before Hitler’s birthday and others around him grow tired of looking for the actual culprit and start looking for someone to blame in their place.

Like many of Kerr’s Gunther works, Kerr splits the narrative between two time periods – 1939, wherein Gunther investigates a murder at Hitler’s compound, and 1956, Gunther accepts an unusually personal mission from an East German agent and old acquaintance, then rushes across the continent to escape his coming confrontation with this symbol of his past, doggedly in pursuit. The split narrative allows Kerr to connect Gunther’s post-war adventures in espionage with his pre-war semi-straightforward investigative work in a way that demonstrates Kerr’s versatility in writing spy fiction and murder mysteries.

Philip Kerr comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest Bernie Gunther novel, Prussian Blue, on Saturday, April 8th at 6 PM. You can find copies of Prussian Blue on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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