Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr

The Blurb On The Back:

France, 1956.  Bernie Gunther is on the run.  If there’s one thing he’s learned, it’s never to refuse a job from a high-ranking secret policeman.  But this is exactly what he’s just done.  Now he’s a marked man, with the East German Stasi on his tail.

Fleeing across Europe, he remembers the last time he worked with his pursuer: in 1939, to solve a murder at the Berghof, Hitler’s summer hideaway in the Bavarian Alps.  Hitler is long dead, the Berghof now a ruined shell, and the bizarre time Bernie spent there should be no more than a distant memory.

But as he pushes on to Berlin and safety, Bernie will find that no matter how far he thinks he has put Nazi Germany behind him, for him it will always be unfinished business.  The Berghof is not done with Bernie yet.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s 1956 and Bernie Gunther is living quietly in Nice but General Erich Mielke of the East German Stasi has one last job for him: he’s to return to England and kill Anne French.  If Bernie does so, then he’ll get a new identity and can return to Germany.  Failure carries a death sentence.  But Gunther’s never been an obliging fellow and when he murders one of the thugs sent to ensure he carries out the job while trying to escape, he finds himself hunted across France by former Kripo colleague turned Stasi stooge, Friedrch Korsch.

Bernie’s predicament finds himself thinking back to the last case he and Korsch worked together.  It was in 1939 when talk was of Hitler’s planned invasion of Poland.  At the request of Martin Bormann, Heydrich sends Bernie and Korsch to Hitler’s summer home: the Berghof, to investigate the murder of a civil engineer, shot on Hitler’s own balcony.  Bormann’s keen to keep both the death and investigation as quiet as possible and the pressure is on Bernie to get a quick result.  But the Bavarian Alps house a nest of corruption and intrigue where everyone has a secret they will kill to protect …

The twelfth in Philip Kerr’s BERNIE GUNTHER SERIES is another tightly plotted historical thriller masterpiece split between two equally tense timeframes that sees the cynical-but-honest cop reflect on an investigation that pitched him into the heart of the Nazi elite where he was forced to choose between finding the truth and preserving his own life.  The 1956 timeline appears to refer back to THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE, which I hadn’t read but which you don’t need to in order to follow this story because it’s essentially a framing device for the 1939 investigation.  It was interesting to see Korsch return from THE PALE CRIMINAL and Kerr shows how the War and subsequent events have shaped both of them and removed any room for sentimentality between them.  As always, Kerr’s use of real historical characters is superb with their cruelty, venality and frailty spill out across the page.  The mystery is tightly written and although the culprit could be argued to come out of nowhere, it does fit in with the overriding themes and plotlines.  The book ends with the promise of a fresh start for Bernie and I will definitely be checking out what happens to him next.

PRUSSIAN BLUE will be released in the United Kingdom on 4th April 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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