In his international pursuit of Erich Mielke (the real-life head of the Stasi), Bernard Gunther enters the employment of Reinhard Heydrich (the infamous Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, whose own assassination in Prague inspired a Hollywood movie directed by Fritz Land from a script by Brecht). Ostensibly a German mercenary, Gunther is in fact second cousin to the wise-cracking cynics of Raymond Chandler's world: even his name is shortened to ‘Bernie’ in recognition of his true literary nationality. His pursuit soon takes on secondary importance as the narrative morphs into a string of entertaining set-pieces framed by an increasingly fractured narrative that jumps from '41 to '54, Cold War to WWII, Berlin to Cuba to New York. This sense of dislocation ads to the ambiguity that surrounds Gunther: As he tells and retells his story to various interrogators from the CIA and the Stasi, the listener has to make up his or her own mind about the reliability of his point of view and the extent of his culpability.
It’s a brave choice by Philip Kerr to ask us to engage with a character that occupies moral ground as grey as the army uniform described in the title. He's not helped by the often uneasy mixture of the wise-cracking tone demanded by the conventions of hardboiled noir and the very real history that, at times, overwhelms the story. Cynical quips and the Holocaust don’t mix all that well. Field Gray is packed with background information, and the dialogue is at its weakest when characters speak a little too extensively about the historical background, as if Kerr is trying to cram in every last scrap of his research.
However, these flaws are redeemed in this recording by the perfect marriage between voice and character as presented by Paul Hecht. His voice (reminiscent of Philip Baker Hall) is rich in regret and his crumpled world-weariness matches Bernard Gunther's embattled defensiveness. Here is a character who constantly has to justify his compromised choices to interrogators that have been untouched by the hard choices made necessary by war, and Hecht’s delivery is just right for a defendant who has seen things that his prosecutors can hardly dream of. Even within the context of his unique voice, Hecht manages to color it with light and shade so that the supporting characters are more than just background voices. This is a voice you’ll want to listen to. Dafydd Phillips
Philip Kerr crafts a thrilling chapter from his critically acclaimed Bernie Gunther series. In Field Gray, Bernie finds himself imprisoned in 1954—and told he can either work for French intelligence or he can hang. Accepting his new job, Bernie begins interviewing POWs returning from Germany. And things get interesting when he meets a French war criminal and member of the French SS who has been posing as a German Wehrmacht officer.
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©2011 Philip Kerr (P)2011 Recorded Books, LLC
I am an avid eclectic reader.
This book covers the period's of 1930's, 40's and 50's in Germany. Paul Hecht does a great job of narration. This book looks at WWII from the view of a German policeman. It is very interesting and the treatment of German POW by the Russian was accurately portrayed in the story. I found myself checking up on various events described in the book to see how historically accurate they were. I must say the ending of the book took me by surprise. I was going straight and the story took a big turn. Exciting. This was my first Phillip Kerr book.
Don't start with Field Gray, save it for after you have listened to the preceding volumes in the "Bernie Gunther" detective series. Kerr's creation is an engaging, wryly comic, and morally challenging character. Paul Hecht's reading deeply and unobtrusively captures the spirit of Gunther, as well as the many adversaries Kerr pits against him in this expansive, complex, but eminently clear political detective story, steeped in a history no one should have the pleasure of forgetting about. Field Gray is as much a warning as it is a retelling about the depths of inhumanity in which humanity can so easily lose itself.
No matter where you go, there you are.
Another wonderfully written, dark, but revealing look into the evil of which man is capable. Gunter is a bit of a "superman" himself, but not outrageously so as his escapades reveal the darkness that is the Nazis, and war itself. This character's behavior would not have survived in the real Nazi regime, but Kerr makes a very plausible case for Bernie's doing so. He's done enough with Bernie, so while I am sure his children's books are great, I hope he can invent another character to reveal another of mankind's inner workings and soon.
And whatever happen to cause him change narrators is a clear case of over thinking. John Lee was the perfect Gunter and the change had a negative effect on my listening pleasure!
For the first time with a Kerr book, I have to say the book is much too long. It would be much shorter if Kerr simply resisted the urge to include one inane wise crack after another. It was a good story about an interesting period. However, after 5 books, I've had all of Bernie's smart mouth I can take. I'd have shot him myself---just to shut him up.
This one is a "must read." Flashes forward/backward are handled extremely well and are singularly appropriate in their timing. Narration is outstanding.
Best was the Gurnther character and the narrator.
Worst was the over-extensive bouncing in time and place from Cuba to Guantanamo to Germany to France
I like them all, some more than others.
To look for more Bernie Guenther books
Too much self-analysis and too many attempts to put forward his anti-Nazi, anti-Communist, anti-French, non-anti-semitic qualifications ending in anti-American rants as well.
If accurate, amazing reconstructions of the politics of Germany, France during the pre-WW II and during the WW II eras.
Kerr weaves a story of prisoners that encompasses so much history and so much espionage that he keeps you on your chess game of knowing where all the pieces lie and guessing at how they all move.
In the Bernie Gunther series, Kerr manages to tell a story about Bernie in his pre-war or wartime life, and then jumps to Bernie's then current-day, after the war. The series progresses from just after the war up to the late 50's and early 60's.
This book is his best effort by far. Early on, the books were a bit hard to follow at times and it was hard to catch the story's flow over the gap in years. Field Gray nails it! It's a fabulous story with interesting characters and an intriguing story that ends up being a page turner!
The narrator, Paul Hecht is overall, a very good narrator and he does a fine job on this one.
Overall, this one is Highly Recommended! The series is likewise a recommend!
This character has all the worldweary charm of the era. I love the writing and it was very well read. Makes a nice companion piece with Mission to Paris by Alan Furst.
Too much to change. I could find nothing to admire in the main character or the others. After listening for a couple hours I gave up. The language is explicit and disgusting. I would be embarrassed to let this play out loud in the presence of other people.
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