‘A German Requiem’ is the third book of Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series and is the last of the ‘Berlin Noir’ trilogy (along with ‘March Violets’ and ‘A Pale Criminal’). This book jumps ahead in time to 1947 and illustrates the mess left behind by the war.
As a Berlin police officer during the war, Gunther automatically became part of the SS. To escape having to commit atrocities, he volunteered for the front line. He managed to survive the war despite spending time in a Russian POW camp. Now Gunther is once again working as a Private Investigator in rubble strewn Berlin, where it is a luxury to have food to eat, a roof over your head, and heating fuel. The ‘winners’ of the war have divided up Berlin, and the turf war (the start of the cold war) has begun. Gunther finds out that his wife Kristan has been giving favours to an American for extra food. Then Gunther has a serious run-in with a Russian officer.
So, when Gunther gets the chance to travel to Vienna to save his old Kripo colleague – Becker, from a murder charge, he is more than happy to get away from Berlin for a while. Emil Becker didn’t shy away from SS activities during the war and has been a black marketeer since, but whatever he is guilty of, Gunther and others do not believe that he murdered the American Captain Linden.
Gunther finds Vienna in a better state than Berlin. The rubble is beginning to be cleared away, and the people have food to eat (much of it is still Black Market). But Gunther quickly discovers that Vienna is rotten to the core. Like in Berlin, the Russians, Americans and British are fighting for control and the ex-Nazis have even found their place, hiding in plain sight in the chaos.
As Gunther risks his life to investigate Linden’s murder, he finds bribery and corruption, spies and double agents, and almost everyone masquerading as someone else. The more he digs, the more he puts his own life at risk. And, with the Russian blockade of Berlin, he may not even be able to go back home.
This book gave a brilliant look at the environment that gave birth to the cold war. I can’t wait to read the next in the series – ‘The One from the Other’.
Book Published 1991