Phillip Kerr is at his height in this installment in the Bernie Gunther series. We have some follow-up to a prior plotline with the Cambridge spy ring, but the centerpiece is solving a murder at Berchtesgarden, on "Hitler's mountain" itself, a few months before the invasion of Poland. Kerr's trademark attention to historical detail, and hard-boiled period similes ("a sausage as big as the Sudetenland"!) are very much in evidence, as well as the cynicism about life in National Socialist Germany. This past weaves into a "present" Cold War plot, both of which build to explosive subterranean climaxes.
Complex plot with the back and forth in time. I liked that less about this novel but otherwise an excellent story that evokes compassion and insight into ordinary people living in Nazi Germany.
Basically seems to be a vehicle for explaining what the German Austrian people thought of the Nazi leaders, and their corruption in the Alps. (which by the way, is some of the most beautiful territory you will ever see). (i did live in that region for a few years). Kind of long winded, but the author was starting to faulter(?) with his Bernie series , but trained hard for this one.
One of the best in the series so far after a rare disappointment with the last year's entry.
In the contemporary world of mystery and historical crime fiction where authors write novels primarily hoping for a TV/Movie deal and therefore incorporate nothing more than a script thinly disguised as a novel, Philip Kerr stands out with impeccable historical research, attention to detail that immerses the reader in the period/locale/characters as good novels do and entertaining dialogue that just wouldn't translate well into TV/Big Screen (the typical length of each character's uttering in a dialogue alone would make scriptwriters consider early retirement).
The protagonist detective is a Berliner at odds with Nazi Germany while employed in it and swept along with the political rapids of the time barely in control of his own destiny. Combine that with self-deprecation and witty thoughts as only British authors can do, and you have a sympathetic and entertaining character.
Going back to a previously used formula of two intertwined tales from pre- and post-war periods, the novel is great storytelling using real characters from Nazi Germany. For people prone to making superficial comparisons with current US leadership, there may be some wincing moments from perceived parallels while making a point that it isn't just a charismatic, unprincipled and easily influenced "leader" that can be dangerous but the many opportunists surrounding him that exploit such "leadership" for their own agenda and ends.
The conclusions to the two tales is a bit predictable and anti-climactic. The gravity of the darkness of the period understandably leads to a philosophical soliloquy to end the rather hefty book but it is the journey that makes the time spent worth it.
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