Bernie Gunther is back on the beat
By Oline H. Cogdill
Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013, 6:51 p.m.
Most historical thrillers set against the background of World War II focus on the Allied side. But Scottish author Philip Kerr's novels about Berlin cop Bernie Gunther go behind the scenes of German life during and after WWII. Written out of sequence, these richly plotted novels are mainstays of best-sellers lists.
In “A Man Without Breath,” Kerr again expertly explores complex moral dilemmas in an immoral society. Bernie struggles daily to keep his soul intact away from true evil and to bring at least a smidgen of order where chaos rules. Bernie is no Nazi sympathizer and his refusal to compromise his integrity drives Kerr's solid plots. Kerr's meticulous research delivers myriad surprises about life under the Third Reich while smoothly melding with an intense thriller supported by realistic characters.
The ninth Bernie novel is set during the spring of 1943. Now attached to the decades-old Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, Bernie is sent to investigate the mass graves of Polish officers discovered in the nearby Katyn Wood. The assignment is fraught with politics and propaganda.
Bernie is pressured by Josef Goebbels to attribute the deaths to the Soviets. Goebbels plans to use that to further German propaganda. Bernie has barely begun to “establish a perimeter of safe inquiry” when his investigation takes another direction. A killer begins targeting Germans. Bernie's belief that the killer is another highly trained German soldier puts him in another precarious situation with the Gestapo.
By bringing the war down to the level of the individual, Kerr deftly illustrates why each death mattered, even when so many were lost. Kerr also smoothly portrays the despicable inner circle of the Third Reich without making them caricatures.
“A Man Without Breath” is an engrossing story that examines brutality at its most horrific.
Oline H. Cogdill is a staff writer for the (South Florida) Sun Sentinel.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McMahon’s ‘Winter People’ is a chilling supernatural mystery
- Leonard doesn’t fear his father’s shadow
- ‘Bootlegger’ is compelling addition to Cussler series
- Literary wonders fill woman’s world