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In service to His Majesty, one must be prepared for Hell.

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Metropolis, April 2019
Bernie Gunther #14
by Philip Kerr

G.P. Putnam's Sons
Featuring: Bernie Gunther
384 pages
ISBN: 0735218897
EAN: 9780735218895
Kindle: B07FS7B6P2
Hardcover / e-Book
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"An extraordinarily compelling historical mystery!"

Fresh Fiction Review

Philip Kerr

Reviewed by Monique Daoust
Posted May 16, 2019

Thriller Historical

After toiling for two years in Vice, Bernie Gunther is promoted to the Berlin Murder Commission. He has solved a murder case before, and his new superiors, Weiss and Gennat, have much faith in Bernie. Prostitutes are being murdered and scalped, and Bernie is assigned the case of the "Silesian Station Killer." Ten years after the Great War, Germany is still reeling from the aftermath, and it seems like everything good, bad, and outrageous has descended on Berlin. Crime, corruption, and distrust are everywhere, Nazis and communists face off at every opportunity, and Jews are not precisely welcome in positions of authority. And this is within the police department. Crime solving becomes a perilous enterprise when no one really cares. How does one not lose his soul in this new Babylon, this METROPOLIS where anything goes?

Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther  series had been on my radar for a few years. I somehow never got around to reading it, and how ironic that the first book I read would be the late author's last. The series, in a way, has gone full circle, as METROPOLIS also works as an origin novel when Bernie joins the Praesidium and proceeds to do his job without treading on too many toes. Philip Kerr's flowing, easy, and often very witty writing incites the reader to simply sit back and let a consummate storyteller spin his tale. The story unfolds at a leisurely pace, which I think offers a nice contrast to the frenzied decadence of a city on the brink of chaos.

The Weimar Republic is one of the most fascinating period in history, and the author's knowledge and research are such that I felt completely in the moment, accompanying Bernie through the streets of Berlin. The author creates a sharp picture, enhanced by vivid and colorful descriptions, and precious historical details. Although I knew some of the characters were real historical figures, the Author's Note was a revelation! I think that Philip Kerr writes visuals as compelling as the mesmerizing reproductions of the triptych Metropolis by Otto Dix that are included in the book. I saw it all through Bernie's observant and cynical eyes; he's a realist, not a fool, and this Berlin is not for the faint of heart. METROPOLIS is exactly the book I hoped for: I didn't know what to expect regarding the author's skills at weaving a convincing police procedural - he's excellent - but I wanted to experience 1928 Berlin, and short of time-travel, it couldn't have been any better. Philip Kerr does such an outstanding job at conveying the mounting tensions, that it becomes crystal clear why the Nazis would soon come to power. I loved METROPOLIS as much for all the history it provides as well as for the investigating of the crimes.

I love that the author never fell prey to revisionism or political correctness, and I appreciate the lack of pretension as well as the cultured vocabulary, without reverting to flowery prose, which is no easy feat. Philip Kerr recreates a whole era, and crafts a world that kept me turning the pages, eager to know more yet never wanting the book to end. It is a real tragedy that an author of Mr. Kerr's caliber has left us, but the extraordinary world of Bernie Gunther lives on. Now, I have thirteen books to add to my to-be-read pile.

Learn more about Metropolis


New York Times-bestselling author Philip Kerr treats readers to his beloved hero's origins, exploring Bernie Gunther's first weeks on Berlin's Murder Squad.

Summer, 1928. Berlin, a city where nothing is verboten.

In the night streets, political gangs wander, looking for fights. Daylight reveals a beleaguered populace barely recovering from the postwar inflation, often jobless, reeling from the reparations imposed by the victors. At central police HQ, the Murder Commission has its hands full. A killer is on the loose and though he scatters many clues, each is a dead end. It's almost as if he is taunting the cops. Meanwhile, the press is having a field day.

This is what Bernie Gunther finds on his first day with the Murder Commisson. He's been taken on beacuse the people at the top have noticed him—they think he has the makings of a first-rate detective. But not just yet. Right now, he has to listen and learn.

Metropolis, completed just before Philip Kerr's untimely death, is the capstone of a fourteen-book journey through the life of Kerr's signature character, Bernhard Genther, a sardonic and wisecracking homicide detective caught up in an increasingly Nazified Berlin police department. In many ways, it is Bernie's origin story and, as Kerr's last novel, it is also, alas, his end.

Metropolis is also a tour of a city in chaos: of its seedy sideshows and sex clubs, of the underground gangs that run its rackets, and its bewildered citizens—the lost, the homeless, the abandoned. It is Berlin as it edges toward the new world order that Hitler will soo usher in. And Bernie? He's a quick study and he's learning a lot. Including, to his chagrin, that when push comes to shove, he isn't much better than the gangsters in doing whatever her must to get what he wants.

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