Berlin, March, 1943. A month has passed since the stunning defeat at Stalingrad. Though Hitler insists Germany is winning the war, commanders on the ground know better. Morale is low, discipline at risk. Now word has reached Berlin of a Red massacre of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk. If true, the message it would send to the troops is clear: Fight on or risk certain death. For once, both the Wehrmacht and Propaganda Minister Goebbels want the same thing: Irrefutable evidence of this Russian atrocity. To the Wehrmacht, such proof will soften the reality of its own war crimes in the eyes of the victors. For Goebbels, such proof could turn the tide of war by destroying the Alliance, cutting Russia off from its western supply lines.
Both parties agree that the ensuing investigation must be overseen by a professional trained in sifting evidence and interrogating witnesses. Anything that smells of incompetence or tampering will defeat their purposes. And so Bernie Gunther is dispatched to Smolensk, where truth is as much a victim of war as those poor dead Polish officers.
Smolensk, March, 1943. Army Group Center is an enclave of Prussian aristocrats who have owned the Wehrmacht almost as long as they’ve owned their baronial estates, an officer class whose families have been intermarrying for generations. The wisecracking, rough-edged Gunther is not a good fit. He is, after all, a Berlin bull. But he has a far bigger concern than sharp elbows and supercilious stares, for somewhere in this mix is a cunning and savage killer who has left a trail of bloody victims.
This is no psycho case. This is a man with motive enough to kill and skills enough to leave no trace of himself. Bad luck that in this war zone, such skills are two-a-penny. Somehow Bernie must put a face to this killer before he puts an end to Bernie.
©2013 Philip Kerr (P)2013 Recorded Books
The series is the best.
I liked the first performer better, but once you get used to him, it is OK. I love Bernie Gunther, what a hero.
Fine story -- as always -- by Philip Kerr. But the narration was weak. Little definition in the sound of various characters, leaving it often confusing about who was speaking in the story.
Couldn't tell one character from another. All the voices sounded the same.
I really enjoyed the first part and don't mind the lead character's black humour. Germany and Russia in 1943 weren't the cheeriest places and his outlook lightens things up in a way that's necessary. I don't even mind the focus on death and despair. But for me personally, I can't handle details of rape and torture and after I'd skipped some sections to miss them and I could tell another one was about to begin, I called it quits. I also realized I didn't mind if I never knew how it turned out. After all, we know the ending of WW2, don't we?! I know we're all unique in what we can tolerate in terms of violence, so it's your call if this book's for you or not. There were a lot of characters with difficult names and that could be a bit confusing at times and I made a few notes to keep them straight. I do enjoy a good WW2 story and I took the risk here from an author I'd read before.
"Bernie's out of breath"
I loved the early Bernie Gunther audiobooks. They bristled with noir-ish grittiness, atmosphere and style; essentially Sam Spade against a '30s Berlin background, with more wit, scarier gangsters and a lot more sex and violence. They were read wonderfully too by Jeff Harding; he WAS Bernie and you rooted for him.
Sadly, the series has gone on too long. This story is set in 1943 and uses the backdrop of the Katyn investigations by the Germans. Bernie's anti-Nazi sentiments now sound a little tedious and hackneyed, whilst some of the important plot twists are just silly. There are moments where the old vigour shows through, but not many. It feels like a book written to wring just a bit more out of a lucrative franchise.
Also, Paul Hecht does not capture the sardonic, wise-cracking Gunther in anything like the way Jeff Harding did.
Not a bad thriller, but a shallow imitation of the earlier works.
"Good story ruined by poor narration"
I had not thought it possible to find a worse narrator than Christian Rodska but Paul Hecht beats him by a country mile.
I have read all of Philip Kerr's books and this is the first one I have listened to. The narration is very bland and dull and to my ears wholly inappropriate. A real pity as the story is good. A real disservice to the author.
"...but Philip Kerr doesn't suck!"
Fans of the Bernie Gunther series won't be disappointed with this latest offering. All the usual plot lines are here, along with the big twist at the end!
Goebbels- perfect characterisation of a charming but ruthless man.
The historical research that went into the book makes it an interesting insight into several of World War Twos' 'hidden histories' , including the plots by the Prussian aristocracy to assassinate Hitler, and Katyn Woods massacre.
A good read. Fans of Bernie Gunter won't be disappointed.
These books are usually great - especially when read by Jeff Harding. The narration on this is awful; rendering a good story tedious and dull. I'd like my credit back please
Didn't get beyond first five minutes
This is the first Bernie Gunther novel I've read, but looks like a very promising series. Starts in Berlin in 1943 with the commencement of RAF bombing raids on Berlin. Moves on to Smolensk, where Bernie is sent to investigate a possible war crime in Katyn Wood. Lots of nice twists and turns, plots and counter-plots. Although this is his most recent Bernie Gunther novel it is probably about fourth in time sequence
There is also a change of narrators, so it will be interesting to hear any differences.
"A breath of fresh air."
I've never been disappointed with Phillip Kerr's work and his latest is as fresh as ever. The plot is somewhat akin to Enigma, by Robert Harris, in that we deal with the same historical incident, but what I love about this story is that it puts you into the imposable position of being in the German army, but not really of the army. A nice juster position. A very good listen indeed.
"Great book, terrible reader"
I am a long time fan of Philip Kerr and I have read every Bernie Gunther book with pleasure. This is another cracker, set in Poland, as the Katyn Wood massacre is uncovered, with multiple twists and turns. But, oh dear, the reader is terrible. He makes no attempt at different voices for different characters, so its quite monotonous and his timing is weird , which makes the experience of listening disjointed and uncomfortable. And if that wasn't enough, there are the audio versions of typos...mis-takes? ...where the reader (or the producer) is not happy with a sentence so he does it again, but forgets to erase the first version. Strictly amateur hour. I recently reviewed" Back to Blood" by Tom Wolfe, where the excellent reader boosted my overall score from 4 to 5 stars. Here the reader reduced it from 5 to 3 stars.
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