In this second book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, The Pale Criminal brings back Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought he'd seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin - until he turned freelance, and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture.
Hard-hitting, fast-paced, and richly detailed, The Pale Criminal is noir writing at its blackest and best.
©2008 Philip Kerr; (P)2008 Books on Tape
"A superb tour of Berlin on the edge of an abyss and a cynical, dashing leading man." (St. Louis Dispatch)
"Echoes of Raymond Chandler but better on his vivid and well-researched detail than the master." (Evening Standard)
I've only done reviews for a handful of the hundreds I've listened to from Audible and other sources. The vast majority of selections one finds are ok, reasonably entertaining, decent narration, ... they pass the time. I tend to review when I find the book either a real turkey or, on the other hand, quite a find. This one is the latter category ... it's a really good piece of historical fiction with outstanding narration. I'm a fan of WW II historical dramas and films and this one kept kept reminding me of the incredible 2001 film "Conspiracy", about the Wannsee Conference where the Final Solution was hammered out, especially in its stark portrayal of Reinhard Heydrich who was also a central figure in "Conspiracy". But "The Pale Criminal" is also an excellent mystery in the noir manner about a serial killer of young girls in 1930s Nazi Germany. And it does an interesting psychological thing with its twists on psychotherapy, Jung, and others. I really, really liked this book, and am going to go looking for more by Phillip Kerr.
I must qualify my review by saying I am infatuated by books written about this era, and of course love the detective novel genre. I enjoyed the first book in this Bernie Gunther detective series, but this one was much better in that the story was more riveting and multi-faceted, whereas the overall story in the first book was a little flat.
Not only does the author give the reader/listener a taste of what life was like in pre-WWII Nazi Germany, a fictional tale built around actual historical characters is always one I truly enjoy.
I am looking forward to moving on to the third book in this series. For those who enjoy this book I would also recommend Ken Follet and several of his books such as, Eye of the Needle, Hornet Flight, and Jackdaws.
John Lee, the narrator is one of the best and does not disappoint in this effort. He is top notch as usual!
Overall Highly Recommended!!
I am a real crime novel affaciando - and I can honestly say that Kerr is up there with Chandler and Hammett. OK, maybe not on the same level, but he's still writing - and headed in the right direction.
This book evokes a thrilling story of good and evil with lots of great characters and plot twists. Enjoy.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
While I really enjoyed the first book in the series, March Violets earlier this month, I can't say I felt quite the same about this one. We are now in the Berlin of 1938 and Bernie Gunther is asked to rejoin the police force to work on a serial murder case. Several young girls have gone missing and been found defiled in the most gruesome manner: raped, tied by their feet and drained of their blood exactly like slaughtered pigs. All the girls were around 15, blonde and blue-eyed; the perfect Arian stereotype. Another private case has him uncovering a man blackmailing a wealthy widow, a publisher whose son is a homosexual who (inadvisedly in this age of Nazi power) kept up a correspondence with his lover, some of those letters now being in the hands of the blackmailer. Two very different cases, and no apparent link to the question of the oppression of the Jews in this year which is marked by Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, an organized attack against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria which took place on the 9th and 10th November 1938. But of course we eventually learn that no crime in this time and place could occur without the aim of further oppressing the Jews.
While I liked the way the case started resolving itself two-thirds of the way in, I've developed a serious dislike for forms of entertainment which centre on serial rapes and murders of women, and the details in this case were truly horrendous. Perhaps because of this, I focused more on little things that bothered me with the first book; endless questionable similes and a main hero who is a typical macho male, which is accurate enough for the period portrayed and amused me the first time around, but here set off against the background of these female victims was distasteful to me. Is that reverse sexism on my part? All the same, solid writing overall (except those similes—why?) and a crime story which places the reader firmly in the heart of Nazi Germany just before WWII. I'll be listening to the third book to see what trouble Bernie gets into next.
One can really experience the by the period of this story in Germany the utter helplessness and deepening of despair of the same non radical Germans caught within a truly evil and twisted government. Riding in the heart and mind of Gunthur, the reader can experience a last bitter pill marked by Krystal nacht...the reality that insanity and meaningless cruelty was the rule. Gunthur had seemed to have begun to feel in pieces and bits some faith that in some small ways that the rule of law and the protection by the state for human rights just might have some room to exist putting off or postponing the next level of decent and loss of ones country into ever more uncertainty, These books have the main plot steeped in a sea of so many other issues and events some in pointed ways but more often in the most subtle observation of a change in the common with not subtle intonations and feelings.
He unwinds this case from the inside. Carl Jung would be proud. He witnesses the soul of Berlin snuffed by its own pre-Germanic lunatic heritage.
Say something about yourself!
Complex, interwoven and compelling story.
The story of a series of grisly murders committed during the years just before WW II in Germany is riveting. Kerr beautifully creates the sense of being in that time and place with a memorable, flawed hero, in the main character. This book was one of the best audio books we've purchased and is recommended for anyone who likes, murder, misdirection, flawed characters and the historic time period (Berlin, late 1930s).
Give me a good mystery and I am happy!
I must say that I am really glad that I took a chance on this series. You get a close look at the Nazi era Germany and a mystery as well when you listen to this book. I highly recommend this series...
The plot and historical background were good. The graphic, gratuitous conversation about women and descriptions of sex made it unlistenable. The use of misogyny to define a character or advance a plot is ugly but I can understand why an author might choose to do that. That's not the case here.
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