March Violets by Philip Kerr

In March 1933 when Hitler became dictator, many people who had been ‘sitting on the fence’ rushed to join the Nazi party. These people are known as March Violets. Membership of the Nazi party was closed a few months later.

This is the first book in Philip Kerr’s series featuring Berlin detective Bernie Gunther. This novel is set in 1936, so includes the Berlin Olympics, but only as a small part of the atmosphere of the time.

Gunther is an ex-police detective. He foresaw difficulties staying with the police as a non-Nazi, so he became a private detective. One of his specialties is finding missing people. The current environment in Germany has him searching for many missing Jews (many detectives will no longer work for Jews).

Gunther is hired by a rich industrialist – Herman Six, whose daughter and son-in-law have been murdered. After the murder, their safe was robbed and Six would like to retrieve the jewels stolen from the sage.

This mission takes Gunther into the dark underworld of 1930s Berlin, full of corruption and thuggery, which is not really very different from the visible side of Berlin where people are terrorised by the Gestapo, SS and SA.

The plot is fairly complicated as nobody knows who they can trust, Gunther manages to get himself roughed up several times while trying to track down leads and trying to find out if there is more to the job than meets the eye.

Along the way, some famous Nazis drift in and out of the story (Georing and Himmler) as if they were just regular people. Gunther falls in love – but his new love goes missing. And, Gunther gets sent to the Dachau concentration camp for a short time.


The book was an excellent read, but probably a bit too complicated. I think the section about Dachau was not very well covered and probably no necessary to the story – maybe it was included to demonstrate Heydrich’s ability to manipulate Gunther’s life.

I will be continuing with the series, the next being – ‘The Pale Criminal’.


Book Published 1989



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