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Book Author: Philip Kerr

IF THE DEAD RISE NOT by Philip Kerr: Book Review

Another Bernie Gunther novel by Philip Kerr, another winner.  If the Dead Rise Not, the sixth and latest in the series featuring a Berlin police detective/private investigator in 1930’s-40’s Germany, takes the reader from that Nazi-infested city in 1934 to the Mob-infested city of Havana in 1954.  Different criminals, different motives, same endings–death.

Bernie Gunther first appeared in March Violets and went on to appear in several other novels.  In If the Dead Rise Not the scene is pre-Olympics Berlin, with Adolf Hitler already in power and determined to show the world that his country is able to stage the greatest Games ever. But already the world is suspicious of him, with arrests and worse of German Jews, communists, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.  So an American “businessman” is sent to Berlin to convince Avery Brundage, who is visiting the city and is in charge of deciding whether the Americans will participate in the upcoming Olympics, that all the rumors of Nazi terrors are unfounded.  If you want an efficient, well-run Games, Max Reles tells Brundage, this is the city for you.

Similar to a mystery I reviewed earlier, The Garden of Beasts by Jeffrey Deaver, If the Dead Rise Not pulls the reader into pre-World War II Germany.  And this between war time period is very important to the plot.  The country is still suffering from its total defeat in the Great War.  Inflation is rampant, Teutonic pride has been hurt, territory has been lost, the British, French, and Amis (Americans) seem to have it all.  Someone (or many someones) must be to blame for all of that, and that appears to be anyone in the country who is not 100% Aryan through at least three generations.

Gunther is a throw-back to an earlier time, when there was law, as well as order, in the country, when shops didn’t have signs in front of them telling Christians not to buy from Jewish shops, when informers didn’t make neighbor fear neighbor.  Not to say that Bernie’s perfect–he knows how to go along to get along.  Bernie’s no Nazi and he does his job, which is now hotel detective at the famed Adlon Hotel, as well as he can without overtly antagonizing the Brown Shirts that seem to be on every corner.  But he tries to do the right thing, even when that comes back to bite him, as in the case of getting a young woman off the streets and into a respectable job with the afore-mentioned American businessman.  That backfires, and the murders begin.

Then the scene switches to Havana and the story of two other tyrants, Fulgencio Batista and Raul Castro. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose; the more things change, the more they stay the same (Alphonse Karr, 1849).  How right he was.  It seems as if no matter where Bernie goes, his past follows him.

I strongly suggest reading this series in order, which will allow the reader to follow the path of Bernie Gunther as well as the history of Germany.  It’s not a pretty read, but it’s a true one.

Unfortunately, Philip Kerr doesn’t have a designated web site, but you can read more about him at various sites on the Internet.