The Pale Criminal (Bernie Gunther, #2)
In the sweltering summer heat wave of 1938, the German people anxiously await the outcome of the Munich conference, wondering whether Hitler will plunge Europe into another war. Meanwhile, private investigator Bernie Gunther has taken on two cases involving blackmail. The first victim is a rich widow. The second is Bernie himself.Having been caught framing an innocent Jew for a series of vicious murders, the Kripo—the Berlin criminal police—are intent on locating the real killer and aren't above blackmailing their former colleague to get the job done. Temporarily promoted to the rank of Kommissar, Bernie sets out to solve the dual mysteries and begins an investigation that will expose him to the darkest depths of humanity...Hailed by Salman Rushdie as a "brilliantly innovative thriller-writer," Philip Kerr is the creator of taut, gripping, noir-tinged mysteries that are nothing short of spellbinding. In this second book of the Berlin Noir trilogy, The Pale Criminal brings back Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who thought he’d seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin—until he turned freelance and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture. Hard-hitting, fast-paced, and richly detailed, The Pale Criminal is noir writing at its blackest and best.

The Pale Criminal (Bernie Gunther, #2) Details

TitleThe Pale Criminal (Bernie Gunther, #2)
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 28th, 2005
PublisherG.P. Putnam's Sons
ISBN-139780142004159
Rating
GenreMystery, Historical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Crime, Thriller, Cultural, Germany, Noir

The Pale Criminal (Bernie Gunther, #2) Review

  • Mara
    January 1, 1970
    There's a fine line between being lovably flawed and being a jerk when it comes to detectives/secret agents and what have you. Last time around, Bernard Gunther was in the former category. You can't blame a guy for having a bleak outlook on life in late-1930s Berlin, and the misogynistic attitude was what it was. In round two of Bernie's adventures, The Pale Criminal , I found him much harder to stomach. It's not just the bedding of women during sex crimes investigations that got There's a fine line between being lovably flawed and being a jerk when it comes to detectives/secret agents and what have you. Last time around, Bernard Gunther was in the former category. You can't blame a guy for having a bleak outlook on life in late-1930s Berlin, and the misogynistic attitude was what it was. In round two of Bernie's adventures, The Pale Criminal , I found him much harder to stomach. It's not just the bedding of women during sex crimes investigations that got me, so much as his internal monologue of imagining himself between their thighs while they describe the last known whereabouts of their (presumably dead) children. Likewise, the threat of the pink triangle was real (I know, it's shocking that the Party wasn't more progressive when it came to same-sex relationships, but true nonetheless), but the quips about it just made Gunther seem mean (especially when paired with toilet humor even I didn’t find all that funny). Philip Kerr makes more use of his environment this time around. Bernie gets sucked back into Kripo , and is keenly aware of the internal strife within the leadership of the Nazi Party (including the questionable "purity" of The Blonde Beast, Reinhard Heydrich's , status as an Aryan). Julius Streicher's fiercely anti-semitic rag, Der Stürmer factors in as well which, if nothing more, is an artifact of the times. In the end, the mystery just wasn't that good and I liked Bernie less and less as it went. If the last in the Berlin Noir trilogy doesn't come to my library, chances are I won't actively seek it out. 2.5/5 stars for me.
    more
  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    Berlin, 1938: the Nazis are firmly in power and we're moving menacingly towards Kristallnacht. Gunther is faced with an intriguing double plot of gay blackmail and the serial murders of pretty Aryan girls. But is there really a sex maniac/ritual murderer on the loose - or is something far more sinister behind the cases? Kerr has got some fascinating detail here especially on Nazi responses to psychotherapy and mental health - but Gunther's rampant sexist commentary and creepy lechery is just tir Berlin, 1938: the Nazis are firmly in power and we're moving menacingly towards Kristallnacht. Gunther is faced with an intriguing double plot of gay blackmail and the serial murders of pretty Aryan girls. But is there really a sex maniac/ritual murderer on the loose - or is something far more sinister behind the cases? Kerr has got some fascinating detail here especially on Nazi responses to psychotherapy and mental health - but Gunther's rampant sexist commentary and creepy lechery is just tiresome and feels particularly inappropriate in a case involving fairly graphic sexualised violence against young women.That said, having struggled a bit with the first book in this series, this feels far more competent and I've resigned myself to enjoying these books despite Gunter rather than because of him! It's quite rare to find a writer who can inhabit his historical setting in the way that Kerr does, and he generally avoids the dreaded info-dumps. So a 'hero' who doesn't endear himself to me but overall this is a tight and engaging depiction of the inner workings of Nazi Germany with a complex plot at its heart.
    more
  • Helen
    January 1, 1970
    I read this all in one day. I repeat; in Nazi Germany, Bernie Gunther would have been dead ten times by page 50. But I'll forgive Phillip Kerr, if only for the great sensory pleasure of immersing myself in the reality of his description. He seems to know every neighborhood, every street, every boulevard, every music hall and restaurant and government building and whorehouse, the accents spoken by Germans from Nuremberg or Bavaria, and which Nazis were bad, or not so bad. The depth of his knowled I read this all in one day. I repeat; in Nazi Germany, Bernie Gunther would have been dead ten times by page 50. But I'll forgive Phillip Kerr, if only for the great sensory pleasure of immersing myself in the reality of his description. He seems to know every neighborhood, every street, every boulevard, every music hall and restaurant and government building and whorehouse, the accents spoken by Germans from Nuremberg or Bavaria, and which Nazis were bad, or not so bad. The depth of his knowledge, and his comfort level in writing about it, is truly astounding.I have read a lot of Holocaust history, so I confess to a certain amount of guilt in reading these entertaining thrillers. Still, I got chills as fictional Bernie Gunther sniffed around the edges of the catastrophe to come, later to be known as Kristallnacht. It's quite magical, the way Kerr imagines ordinary people discussing events that we know are looming, just a few months away, on the factual timeline of World War II. And every now and then, he escapes the bounds of his genre to write a truly lyrical, quotable line on history, and the nature of man at his worst.Looking forward to the next one.
    more
  • HBalikov
    January 1, 1970
    This is book #2 in the Bernie Gunther saga. It is 1936 and the dark cloud of National Socialism covers everything. Bernie is still depressed over the disappearance of his secretary/lover and he is trying to adjust to having a partner in his detective practice.“I had another argument with my boy Heinrich when I got back from the Zoo.” (his partner mentions)“What was it this time?”“He’s only gone and joined the motorized Hitler Youth, that’s all.”I shrugged. “He would have to have joined the regul This is book #2 in the Bernie Gunther saga. It is 1936 and the dark cloud of National Socialism covers everything. Bernie is still depressed over the disappearance of his secretary/lover and he is trying to adjust to having a partner in his detective practice.“I had another argument with my boy Heinrich when I got back from the Zoo.” (his partner mentions)“What was it this time?”“He’s only gone and joined the motorized Hitler Youth, that’s all.”I shrugged. “He would have to have joined the regular Hitler Youth sooner or later.”“The little swine didn’t have to be in such a damned hurry to join, that’s all. He could have waited to be taken in, like the rest of the lads in his class.”“Come on, look on the bright side. They’ll teach him how to drive and look after an engine. They’ll still turn him into a Nazi, of course, but at least he’ll be a Nazi with a skill.”Black humor, black deeds and what looks like a simple blackmail case gets very complicated.Again, Kerr (through Gunther) gives us a ground-level tour of the Nazi capitol, Berlin. He also gives us a very stress-inducing, palpable tour of the venality, pettiness, power-grabbing, and criminality that was the National Socialist movement. The tipping point comes when Gunther is taken to meet Reinhard Heydrich, known as “the man with the iron heart.” Perhaps, part of their conversation is the best way to give you a sense of how Kerr brings this all together.“At my home in Schlactensee we have a fine garden with its own croquet lawn. Are either of you familiar with the game?”“No,” we said in unison.“It’s an interesting game; I believe it’s very popular in England. It provides an interesting metaphor for the new Germany. Laws are merely hoops through which the people must be driven, with varying degrees of force. But there can be no movement without the mallet – croquet is really the perfect game for a policeman”….”The new Germany,” he said, “is all about arresting the decline of the family, you know, and establishing a national community of blood…the better our children, the better the future of Germany…What about children? Do you like them?”“I like them.”“Good,” he said. “It’s my own personal opinion that it is essential to like them, doing what we do – even the things we must do that are hard because they seem distasteful to us – for otherwise we can find no expression for our humanity…A maniac is loose on the streets of Berlin, Herr Gunther.”I shrugged, “Not so as you would notice,” I said.Heydrich shook his head impatiently.“No, I don’t mean a Stormtrooper beating up some old Jew. I mean a murderer (of young girls).”“I haven’t seen anything in the newspapers about it.”….”Thanks to Streicher and his anti-Semitic rag, it would only get blamed on the Jews,” said Nebe.“Precisely so,” said Heydrich. “The last thing I want is an anti-Jewish riot in this city. That sort of thing offends my sense of public order. It offends me as a policeman. When we do decide to clear out the Jews it will be in a proper way, not with a rabble to do it”….”You see, Gunther,” said Heydrich, “we come back to you again. Quite frankly, I doubt there is a better detective in the whole of Germany.”I laughed and shook my head. “You’re good. Very good. That was a nice speech you made about children and the family, General, but of course we both know that the real reason you’re keeping the lid on this thing is because it makes your modern police force look like a bunch of incompetents. Bad for them, bad for you. And the real reason you want me back is not because I’m such a good detective, but because the rest are so bad.”Kerr induces (and lets the reader explore) the discomfort that comes with some very violent acts. He also provides, through additional characters, an exploration of the criminal sexual/sadistic mind and how the fear of death may provide self-justification for both the conventional criminal and the Nazi criminal. The experiences change Gunther, so that well into this story he describes himself as follows: “I’m no knight in shining armour. Just a weather-beaten man in a crumpled overcoat on a street corner with only a grey idea of something you might as well go ahead and call Morality. Sure, I’m none too scrupulous about the things that might benefit my pocket, and I could no more inspire a bunch of young thugs to do good works than I could stand up and sing a solo in the church choir. But of one thing I was sure. I was through looking at my fingernails when there were thieves in the store.”There is little more I can offer to help you decide if this is something you care to explore. I know, somewhat from reading this series out of order, where Gunther must travel. And, it is a difficult road that reflects the times in Germany and the world at large.
    more
  • Mark
    January 1, 1970
    I finally finished this novel and dare to say that it is without any doubt the worst of the Bernie Gunthers' novels I have read so far, with two more to go.Bernie is working as a PI after been out of the Berlin kripo (KRIminal POlizei = police) and he gets put back in his job by some serious Nazi big wigs simply because he is a good cop and in these days of Nazis getting all the good jobs there is a serious lack of cops who can actually work a case. The case being good German Aryan girls being k I finally finished this novel and dare to say that it is without any doubt the worst of the Bernie Gunthers' novels I have read so far, with two more to go.Bernie is working as a PI after been out of the Berlin kripo (KRIminal POlizei = police) and he gets put back in his job by some serious Nazi big wigs simply because he is a good cop and in these days of Nazis getting all the good jobs there is a serious lack of cops who can actually work a case. The case being good German Aryan girls being kidnapped and then killed. As an informed reader you suddenly know the plot it being those pesky Jews killing German finest or Germans killing those girls in order to blame them on those Jewish folks. Throw in some supernatural stuff, which is as flaky as the plot, and have Bernie travel around Germany and learn how awefull those Nazis are and you've got the story. Where in previous books I have read a more subtle approach and a far more informative this time Kerr uses a shovel to ram home some facts. The story is far to predictable and two dimensional to be really exciting to read. Add Bernie's questionable, read awefull, approach to sexuality towards women and homosexuals and this novel suddenly is not so much fun to read.Had this been the second book I had read I would not have continued with the series, however this being the almost last I have read I know that Kerr can do better and has done so several times.This book does not show the problems for Jews in pre-WWII Nazi Germany without going over the top, the fact that the book ends on the night of the Kristallnacht and chooses to do nothing with that important moment and in the afterword more gets made out of the financial damage as the damage to the people shows that Kerr clearly made the wrong choices in this book. This book about a conspiracy to blame the Jewish never gets into a stride it keeps limping around while telling the message how awefull it was and forgetting like in the other BG novels that while it was a part of daily life under the Nazi regime there was so much more wrong instead of hammering on just one. The whole book felt like it was an advertisement on one subject and were the other books have given the story more shades than just black and white.A big dissapointment for me.
    more
  • Alex Cantone
    January 1, 1970
    Kindermann’s clinic stood off a quiet road in a large but well-behaved sort of garden that sloped down to a small backwater off the main lake and included, among the many elm and chestnut trees, a colonnaded pier, a boathouse and a Gothic folly that was so neatly built as to take on a rather more sensible air. It looked like a medieval telephone kiosk.Berlin, 1938. Former detective turned PI Bernie Günther meets police chief Arthur Nebe under cover of darkness, Nebe gives him the heads up that H Kindermann’s clinic stood off a quiet road in a large but well-behaved sort of garden that sloped down to a small backwater off the main lake and included, among the many elm and chestnut trees, a colonnaded pier, a boathouse and a Gothic folly that was so neatly built as to take on a rather more sensible air. It looked like a medieval telephone kiosk.Berlin, 1938. Former detective turned PI Bernie Günther meets police chief Arthur Nebe under cover of darkness, Nebe gives him the heads up that Heydrich of the Gestapo wants him back at Kripo to undertake a delicate investigation; but meanwhile he is retained by wealthy German woman Frau Lange, owner of a printing company. Her son is gay and a blackmailer has acquired letters between him and his lover, psychotherapist Dr Lanz Kindermann, and she wants him to track down who it is. When Bernie asks how she knew of him when he does not advertise, she shows him a business card dating from before he had a partner (Bruno Stahlecter), with his private number written on it, that the mother found in her son’s jacket. This takes him back to his affair with Inge Lorenz, who mysteriously disappeared two years earlier.But staking out and finding the identity of the blackmailer is only the start of his troubles: his partner is murdered and the blackmailer commits suicide (apparently) which frees him up to return to Kripo and head an investigation into the abduction and murder of several teenage girls, which the Gestapo is keeping a lid on to avoid any copycat killings. Günther agrees, but on his terms – that he picks his own small team and is made Kommissar, to avoid line of command with senior Kripo officers. But at least he has a few friends there.Tanker nodded reflectively as he pushed off the bottle tops with his bare thumbs. ‘And it’s Kommissar now, I hear. Resigns as an inspector. Reincarnated as a Kommissar. Makes you believe in f___ing magic, doesn’t it? If I didn’t know you better I’d say you were in somebody’s pocket.’‘Just when you thought that things couldn’t get any worse, you find out that they’ve always been a lot worse than you thought they were. And then they get worse...’A suspect is apprehended then released as another girl is abducted, and Günther struggles to keep his detectives Korsch, Deubel and Becker, in line. An anonymous phone tip off and another girl’s experience suggests someone with a Bavarian accent is behind the killings, linking back to the SS itself. With the mother of one of the missing girls Günther goes undercover, attending a séance in the presence of Himmler, where the medium describes the girl’s whereabouts.He gets to travel outside Berlin (and not as a prisoner). I drove west out of Berlin, following the yellow signs indicating long-distance traffic, heading towards Potsdam and beyond it, to Hanover. The autobahn branches off from the Berlin circular road at Lehnin, leaving the old town of Brandenburg to the north, and beyond Zeisar the road runs west in a straight line…From the narrow winding road, Wewelsburg looked like a typical Westphalian peasant village, with as many shrines to the Virgin Mary on the walls and grass verges as there were pieces of farm machinery left lying outside the half-timbered, fairy story houses. I knew I was in for something weird when I stopped at one of these for directions...the flying griffins, runic symbols and ancient words of German that were carved or painted in gold on the black window casements and lintels put me in mind of witches and wizards...This was a solid read if a bit of a slow-burner at first, and covered a dark page in European history (persecution of Jews, gypsies, Catholic Priests, homosexuals in a purging of society). Not that Germany was alone as Stalin too had his Pograms. Unlike March Violets there are no US-style mobsters here, instead a throw back to Pagan and early-Christian cults, with Heydrich proving an unexpected ally.Verdict: A good, if noir read, and I am beginning to warm to Bernie Günther.
    more
  • Mark Capell
    January 1, 1970
    I thought I was done with reading the traditional hard-boiled detective. Perhaps I picked this up in a nostalgic mood. I think it was Mark Lawson who talked about the three Ds of hard boiled detective fiction - drink, depression and divorce. Yes, it might be a truism that a lot of detectives in real life suffer from all of these, but it's been done to death in detective fiction. I love the novels of Henning Mankell and Ian Rankin, whose detectives are similarly inflicted but recently I vowed not I thought I was done with reading the traditional hard-boiled detective. Perhaps I picked this up in a nostalgic mood. I think it was Mark Lawson who talked about the three Ds of hard boiled detective fiction - drink, depression and divorce. Yes, it might be a truism that a lot of detectives in real life suffer from all of these, but it's been done to death in detective fiction. I love the novels of Henning Mankell and Ian Rankin, whose detectives are similarly inflicted but recently I vowed not to read (or write) a detective with any 'D' whatsoever.So why did I pick up this novel and why did I like it. I suppose it was the milieu that intrigued me. Setting a crime novel in 1930s Nazi Germany does raise the stakes and the moral temperature. The hero is your run-of-the-mill hard boiled detective but it was fascinating reading about him trying to do his job whilst fighting prejudice and the rule of the jackboot.So, if like me you're tired of the three Ds, don't let that put you off. It's a very satisfying read.
    more
  • Dave
    January 1, 1970
    At The Very Gates of HellDown these mean streets... The genius of Kerr is that he takes the dark dreary Hardboiled detective Gunther and placed him not on the mean streets of Los Angeles, but in the midst of Hitler's Germany in 1938...at the very gates of Hell, on the eve of Kristalnachtt. In so doing, Kerr paints a picture of sadism, debauchery, and fear, that is uncanny. You can feel how dark the very skies are becoming, how thick the air is, how twisted logic has become. This book has Gunther At The Very Gates of HellDown these mean streets... The genius of Kerr is that he takes the dark dreary Hardboiled detective Gunther and placed him not on the mean streets of Los Angeles, but in the midst of Hitler's Germany in 1938...at the very gates of Hell, on the eve of Kristalnachtt. In so doing, Kerr paints a picture of sadism, debauchery, and fear, that is uncanny. You can feel how dark the very skies are becoming, how thick the air is, how twisted logic has become. This book has Gunther rejoining the police force - although not by choice- and hunting for a serial killer and a web of blackmail. Like all the books in this series, it is a terrific read, although the plot line is not as sure as that in the first book, March Violets, and appears to meander a little at times.
    more
  • Lynn
    January 1, 1970
    Jeez these books are grim. There's a great blending of fiction and history here: real people, book characters, real headlines and crimes mixed with fiction. I found it grim because I knew what would happen in November 1938 -- Kristallnacht. What could be more perfect for noir that Nazi Germany?
    more
  • Nigeyb
    January 1, 1970
    Whilst not quite as good as 'March Violets', the first of the Bernhard Günther novels by Philip Kerr, this is an absorbing and exciting read. Set in 1938, two years after the events of 'March Violets', Bernie Günther has taken Bruno Stahlecker, another ex-police officer, as his partner. The two are working on a case where a Frau Lange, owner of a large publishing house, is being blackmailed for the homosexual love letters her son Reinhardt sent to his psychotherapist Dr. Kindermann. As in 'March Whilst not quite as good as 'March Violets', the first of the Bernhard Günther novels by Philip Kerr, this is an absorbing and exciting read. Set in 1938, two years after the events of 'March Violets', Bernie Günther has taken Bruno Stahlecker, another ex-police officer, as his partner. The two are working on a case where a Frau Lange, owner of a large publishing house, is being blackmailed for the homosexual love letters her son Reinhardt sent to his psychotherapist Dr. Kindermann. As in 'March Violets', although most of the characters are fictitious, the novel's plot also involves historical figures, including Julius Streicher, Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich, and 'The Pale Criminal' is permeated by an atmosphere of Nazi brutality and anti-Semitism. This time round there are some philosophical and psychological themes that were prevalent during the Nazi era, and the story also embraces homosexuality, drug addiction, mental health, psychotherapy, and spiritualism.The relentless misogyny got a bit more wearing this time round. I'm guessing (hoping?) Philip Kerr was trying to capture the prevailing attitudes of 1938, but did he have to do it with quite so much apparent relish? Smells are a theme throughout 'The Pale Criminal', not least the stench of official corruption that characterised Hitler's regime. This novel is more conventional and slightly less successful than 'March Violets' however it picked up significantly in the final third and leaves me feeling keen to continue with the next in the series - 'A German Requiem'.
    more
  • James
    January 1, 1970
    I thought this book was brilliant - extremely well researched, as was March Violets, nuanced and layered with meaning and allusions. You never quite get a handle on the Bernie Gunther of this book - one minute he's pondering Baudelaire, the next he's fantasizing about an attractive woman.I'm in awe of Philip Kerr's work in the first two books in the Bernie Gunther series. To set his character in pre-war Nazi Germany and to trace the society's descent into madness is nothing short of brilliant as I thought this book was brilliant - extremely well researched, as was March Violets, nuanced and layered with meaning and allusions. You never quite get a handle on the Bernie Gunther of this book - one minute he's pondering Baudelaire, the next he's fantasizing about an attractive woman.I'm in awe of Philip Kerr's work in the first two books in the Bernie Gunther series. To set his character in pre-war Nazi Germany and to trace the society's descent into madness is nothing short of brilliant as far as I'm concerned. I have no hesitation in comparing Kerr to other excellent writers of historical fiction.A word or two of caution to sensitive readers - Kerr's characters act, think and talk like people of their era likely acted, thought and talked. I've detected no hint of whitewashing the characters with modern (for the time the novel was written) sensibilities. While it may be unsettling, it's genuine and likely representative of the era.
    more
  • Mark Harrison
    January 1, 1970
    Very deceny sequel to 'March Violets' as Bernie returns to the Police to investigate the brutal ritualistic murders of several young girls. Graphic violence and intrigue as he tries not to upset the SS but finds all roads making that harder and harder. Good read.
    more
  • Rowena Hoseason
    January 1, 1970
    Philip Kerr wrote his original Berlin Noir trilogy nearly three decades ago and the Pale Criminal is the second in the series centred around Bernie Gunther. He's a cynical, sardonic detective haunted more by his own inadequacies than he could ever be intimidated by National Socialism.The Gunther novels dependably provide a well-researched window into the life of a policeman in Nazi Germany, a skewed view of how historical events might’ve looked to der Mann auf der strasse; Kerr’s wicked ability Philip Kerr wrote his original Berlin Noir trilogy nearly three decades ago and the Pale Criminal is the second in the series centred around Bernie Gunther. He's a cynical, sardonic detective haunted more by his own inadequacies than he could ever be intimidated by National Socialism.The Gunther novels dependably provide a well-researched window into the life of a policeman in Nazi Germany, a skewed view of how historical events might’ve looked to der Mann auf der strasse; Kerr’s wicked ability to wield a sharp word to best effect.This episode starts in 1938 when optimists were still hoping for the best while the wise prepared for the worst. PI Bernie is leaned on to return to Kripo, the criminal investigation arm of the police, to catch a serial killer. Inevitably it turns political: for everything in Germany at that time could hardly be otherwise. And if he locates the murderer, then Bernie will inevitably make implacable enemies among one or other fanatical factions…This Bernie Gunther is a subtly different person to the one Kerr writes now – someone with a bitter, almost brittle edge to his dangerous humour. The plotting is tight and the pace feels faster, too; by modern standards this is a short novel which only helps to give it more impact.The result is a vividly realised police procedural, wrapped inside a political thriller, disguised as an historical novel. The Pale Criminal excels on all three levels – and if you haven’t read any other Bernie Gunther novels then it works perfectly as a stand-alone.9/10There's a more in-depth version of this review over at https://murdermayhemandmore.wordpress...
    more
  • Mayar El Mahdy
    January 1, 1970
    Why am I doing this? Why do I read a book with whose main character acts like a mid-life crisis with a retarded sense of humor? I hate Bernie Gunther, hated him here more than the first one even. Will I read the third book? I might, and I'll hate myself every moment of it.
    more
  • Eric_W
    January 1, 1970
    Bernie’s investigations continue in The Pale Criminal. It’s a few years later and Hitler is about to move into Czechoslovakia. He is hired to find the blackmailer of a wealthy widow who owns a large publishing firm. Her son is being treated in a fancy sanitarium (psychotherapy has been ruled illegal by the Nazis — one of their few sensible actions) for his homosexual tendencies. As that persuasion has also been made illegal, he is a prime candidate for a concentration camp, so his mother is wil Bernie’s investigations continue in The Pale Criminal. It’s a few years later and Hitler is about to move into Czechoslovakia. He is hired to find the blackmailer of a wealthy widow who owns a large publishing firm. Her son is being treated in a fancy sanitarium (psychotherapy has been ruled illegal by the Nazis — one of their few sensible actions) for his homosexual tendencies. As that persuasion has also been made illegal, he is a prime candidate for a concentration camp, so his mother is willing to make substantial payments to keep his secret. Heydrich, head of the SD, blackmails Bernie into returning to the Kripo (the regular German police), realizing that exdetective inspector Bernie is one of the few good detectives left in Berlin, the others having been liquidated from the force in favor of political appointees. Bernie also has no political or racial ax to grind, and someone in Berlin has been methodically killing teenage Aryan girls. The Jews who were routinely accused of the earlier crimes were in jail at the time of the later killings, so they could not have been responsible. Heydrich fears that if the news gets out, a general panic will result, making it look as if he cannot keep order. The evidence soon begins to point toward the complicity of Julius Streicher, hated Nazi mob boss and Bavarian bully. The killings all have a ritualistic element and Streicher’s sensationalist newspaper Der Stürmer has printed accusations and fake pictures of Jewish ritualistic murders that bear a striking resemblance to the real killings, details of which have not been released to the media. Bernie’s theory is that Streicher wants to incite a pogrom in Berlin against the Jews by blaming them for these horrid killings.
    more
  • Sofia
    January 1, 1970
    Unlike when a detective such as Gunther restores the world to it's usual frame by the end of the book, here we have Gunther fighting against windmills. Windmills who continue to gather in strength and deviousness. Shall Gunther continue, he must to survive, shall I continue to read, yes I will.From the Author's NoteThe Kristallnacht pogrom of 9 and 10 November 1938 resulted in 100 Jewish deaths, 177 synagogues burnt down and the destruction of 7,000 Jewish businesses. It has been estimated that Unlike when a detective such as Gunther restores the world to it's usual frame by the end of the book, here we have Gunther fighting against windmills. Windmills who continue to gather in strength and deviousness. Shall Gunther continue, he must to survive, shall I continue to read, yes I will.From the Author's NoteThe Kristallnacht pogrom of 9 and 10 November 1938 resulted in 100 Jewish deaths, 177 synagogues burnt down and the destruction of 7,000 Jewish businesses. It has been estimated that the amount of glass destroyed was equal to half the annual plate-glass production of Belgium, whence it had originally been imported. Damages were estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Where insurance monies were paid to Jews, these were confiscated as compensation for the murder of the German diplomat, von Rath, in Paris. This fine totalled $250 million.
    more
  • Darwin8u
    January 1, 1970
    Probably 3.5 stars. Well written, but there is only so much Nazi sadism, sex and violence I can stomach. Kerr certainly doesn't wallow in it, but there still is too much exposure to the violent fetishes of 1938 Germany for me to really say I enjoyed this novel. That said, it was well written and original in its plot and story. There are no lack of victims and criminals to populate this Berlin Noir story. Not a book I'd necessarily recommend to my friends and family, but not a novel I'd run from Probably 3.5 stars. Well written, but there is only so much Nazi sadism, sex and violence I can stomach. Kerr certainly doesn't wallow in it, but there still is too much exposure to the violent fetishes of 1938 Germany for me to really say I enjoyed this novel. That said, it was well written and original in its plot and story. There are no lack of victims and criminals to populate this Berlin Noir story. Not a book I'd necessarily recommend to my friends and family, but not a novel I'd run from either. Now to go wash my hands and burn my bookmark.
    more
  • Rick Slane
    January 1, 1970
    I guess I read this twice. It is set in Germany 1938.
  • Jim Durrett
    January 1, 1970
    This was dark. I really felt some of the terrible sadness that many of the German people felt during Hitler's rise to power and the suffering of the Jews. Interwoven in all this is a huge conspiracy against the Berlin Jews involving the deaths of many young German girls. Gunther (P.I) is challenged throughout questioning his own morality. I think Kerr did a wonderful job with this novel.
    more
  • Dorothy
    January 1, 1970
    "When a man's partner is killed he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it." - Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettDashiell Hammett was the master of noir and Philip Kerr seemed determined to follow in his footsteps. But his series featuring gumshoe Bernie Gunther is set not on the mean streets of LA but on the meaner streets of Berlin in the era when National Soci "When a man's partner is killed he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it." - Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettDashiell Hammett was the master of noir and Philip Kerr seemed determined to follow in his footsteps. But his series featuring gumshoe Bernie Gunther is set not on the mean streets of LA but on the meaner streets of Berlin in the era when National Socialism held sway. This second book in the series is set in the fall of 1938, the period leading up to the terror of Kristallnacht. I read and reviewed the first book in the series, March Violets, in 2012 and I had intended to read more but just somehow never got around to it. Then I read last week that Kerr had recently died, although he was only in his early 60s. That was just the nudge that I needed to get back to Bernie Gunther and see what was happening with him. What was happening was that he had taken on a partner in his private detective business. Their business consisted mostly of trying to find missing persons, as people had a way of frequently disappearing in the Berlin of 1938. But in his most recent case, he had been hired by a rich widow to find out who was blackmailing her. One night, while working on the case, his partner has a house under surveillance, and someone manages to surprise and kill the partner. In the words of that philosopher Sam Spade, Bernie needs to "do something" about it.Before Bernie is able to do much, he is approached by KRIPO, the Berlin criminal police, to come back to work for them and help them find a serial killer. The killer is abducting teenage girls, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, perfect specimens of Aryan womanhood and raping and killing them in the most brutal manner. KRIPO had tried to frame an innocent Jew for the murders but that all went awry, much to their embarrassment, so now they need a good and unbiased detective to find out what really happened.Bernie is induced to take the KRIPO job and the search is on for a sadistic killer.Kerr methodically builds his plot line, including much historical background of the period. It is interesting to see the police and ordinary citizens going about their business during months in which we now know that the tension was building toward the outbreak of violence that came in November. We also follow the reports of "negotiations" between Germany, England, and France, and Germany's ultimate takeover of the Sudetenland. Kerr presents his protagonist Bernie Gunther as non-racist and anti-Nazi, but Bernie could certainly not be described as an enlightened character. He is casually homophobic and misogynistic. He can't seem to address a woman without undressing her in his mind and imagining himself embraced by her thighs. He tolerates a certain amount of violence by the policemen under his supervision. There's no such thing as civil rights of the accused in Nazi Germany.Bernie is, in short, a man of his times and one recognizes that the author appears to have made a conscious choice not to whitewash his characters. He presents them, warts and all, in the context of the brutal society in which they lived and by exploring their reactions to the events of their times, he is able to trace that society's descent into madness. There is a lot to digest here and much to give us pause, I think, about our own society.I did find it somewhat irritating that the characters speak in their own period tough-guy patois, using jargon which one can only struggle to understand within the context of the action. I suppose using this language adds a certain amount of verisimilitude, but often I just find it distracting.
    more
  • John
    January 1, 1970
    Second in the series featuring PI Bernie Gunther; in this volume WWII is well under way. Berlin is being plagued by a series of ritual murders of young Aryan women; the murders have routinely been pinned on Jewish suspects, but this practice is becoming an obvious nonsense since, despite the luckless Jews having been killed or banished to concentration camps, the killings have continued. Heydrich, aware that most of the cops under his command are incompetent political appointees, dragoons Bernie Second in the series featuring PI Bernie Gunther; in this volume WWII is well under way. Berlin is being plagued by a series of ritual murders of young Aryan women; the murders have routinely been pinned on Jewish suspects, but this practice is becoming an obvious nonsense since, despite the luckless Jews having been killed or banished to concentration camps, the killings have continued. Heydrich, aware that most of the cops under his command are incompetent political appointees, dragoons Bernie into rejoining the Kripo as a sort of consultant in order to find out who the real murderer might be. Soon attention is focusing on Julius Streicher, loathsome even by Nazi standards, who may be engineering the killings in hopes of fomenting pogroms. Simultaneously, Bernie is trying to aid a rich publisher who's being blackmailed over the homosexuality of her son -- something that, for obvious reasons, must be kept strictly a secret in Nazi Germany. I liked this book a lot better than its predecessor, March Violets, mainly because the obsessive wisecrackery of the previous volume has here been toned down a little; perhaps Kerr had a stricter editor this time around or perhaps he was responding to the comments of reviewers of the first book -- who knows? As with the earlier book, though, I was still unconvinced by Bernie's sex life -- he seems merely to have to say "Fancy a quick one?" to any woman he meets and, next thing, he's in the midst of Position #294 complete with live marmoset and tub of cold spaghetti. Something like that, anyway. This aside, the plot worked admirably and, as before, the sheer oppressiveness of the Nazi regime, and of the ubiquitous terror it deliberately instilled in even its supporters, is excellently conveyed.
    more
  • Toby
    January 1, 1970
    To put it simply this was not as enjoyable as the first Bernie Gunther novel. A shame perhaps but it was still an impressive entry in the series.Whereas previously Bernie was constantly sardonic in his attitude towards the world and as such an extremely likable protagonist in The Pale Criminal he is tougher to like. Whether this is in response to the ever growing presence of a Nazi led war or just his new placement back in the Berlin police force it's hard to say but without that humour this was To put it simply this was not as enjoyable as the first Bernie Gunther novel. A shame perhaps but it was still an impressive entry in the series.Whereas previously Bernie was constantly sardonic in his attitude towards the world and as such an extremely likable protagonist in The Pale Criminal he is tougher to like. Whether this is in response to the ever growing presence of a Nazi led war or just his new placement back in the Berlin police force it's hard to say but without that humour this was a much harsher story to read.Phillip Kerr certainly does a much better job of grounding the story within his world/actual historical events this time round and I constantly felt like I was being educated without him really drawing attention to the fact, which for historical fiction is a big plus.Here's hoping that in the next instalment he manages to marry the readability of the first novel with the fine story telling of the second in to a fantastic piece of fiction.
    more
  • Helene
    January 1, 1970
    Makes me so sad that Kerr died. He was an amazingly prolific writer with such good research on 20th century Germany.
  • Jean-marcel
    January 1, 1970
    I've been looking for crime fiction written by contemporary authors lately, and this book was recommended to me by a friend. These days a good many seem to be saying that fiction about nazis, ex-nazis, hiding nazis and back-from-the-dead nazis is all played out, and I see where they're coming from. Nevertheless, I I'd argue there's still room for more. This isn't ostensibly a book about nazis, anyway, but it really is a story where nazi ideology plays a very central role in proceedings -- a rath I've been looking for crime fiction written by contemporary authors lately, and this book was recommended to me by a friend. These days a good many seem to be saying that fiction about nazis, ex-nazis, hiding nazis and back-from-the-dead nazis is all played out, and I see where they're coming from. Nevertheless, I I'd argue there's still room for more. This isn't ostensibly a book about nazis, anyway, but it really is a story where nazi ideology plays a very central role in proceedings -- a rather unavoidable facet when you choose to set your tale in 1938 Berlin and your protagonist, a former PI, ends up working for the municipal police force. Bernie Gunther is not a nazi, but he lives in a nazi world and must act accordingly. Sometimes it's surprising, the things he seems to be able to get away with under such close scrutiny, but then, give it a few more years and an active war, with the SS basically running the entire show, none of that would likely be possible.The book starts out by juggling quite a few plot strands and it took me a while to figure out where it was going. I really enjoyed being on that ride, though, because Bernie is quite a character: sarcastic and sardonic to an extreme degree, hardly a page goes by where our man Bernie doesn't deliver a scathing put-down. It's probably a bit over-the-top for some, in fact, but it works well with my own sense of humour. Bernie isn't in any way "politically correct" and doesn't even hesitate to trash-talk the mothers of those who could have him summarily shot on a moment's notice. The man does have some connections, though, and he's a very good investigator -- so good that his presence on the force has the weight of recommendation from Reinhard Heydrich himself. Since Heydrich is sort of a central character and ostensibly on Bernie's side, helping him get clearance and move his investigation forward, you might be tricked into thinking this is one of those books that suggests that a few of these upper-echelon nazis were not actually so bad, but read til the end -- it's sad as hell and packs quite a punch. Up until that point, Bernie seems to have everything in hand and he works with the confidence and assurance of a Lou Archer (or some modern police equivalent) to uncover the murderers of "perfect aryan" girls. It's quite satisfying to read, until you realise that it's a political game and that he's been used as a pawn: the perpetrators of this particular crime may be dead or made to disappear forever, but the jews are still going to have their kristalnacht, and it will be enacted for the flimsiest of reasons. "Spontaneous expressions of anger from the German people" -- what a laugh.The book does manage to tie its plot strands together in the end, but in a way that relies a little too much on coincidence for me to entirely believe. The biggest issue I had was that (view spoiler)[ it seemed the criminals, despite their high ranks and position, didn't think to do any research on the families and friends of the girls they were abducting. that's a pretty big oversight, considering that Bernie was able to pose as a husband and attend a seance without even calling attention to himself. (hide spoiler)] I also noticed some jarringly awkward writing in a few spots, but it was the sort of thing that could easily be fixed by an editor, so I almost don't want to fault Kerr for this at all. There are more The story moves along at a brisk, confident pace and the wit on display is strong and fiery. Some things may raise a few eyebrows in the modern reader, like Bernie's apparent attitude toward homosexuals, and his toying with a young girl collecting "for the Reich" who attempts to seduce him, but I think it's all a part of the time and place in which Bernie Gunther exists, and as such comes off as being rather authentic. There is a deep sadness that comes to the fore sometimes in Bernie, too, and I think some of his bluster and rigorous scorn is a defense he uses to hide that vulnerability from the world.It turns out there are a number of these Bernie Gunther books, set between the late 1920s and the 1950s. I'll definitely read some more.
    more
  • Magnus Stanke
    January 1, 1970
    I was going to give this book '4 stars' - it's much better than the first in the series, in that the writing is much less over-packed with self-conscious similies. While Philip Kerr is obviously still trying to emulate - or shall I say 'channel' - Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled style of narration (which I don't blame him for one bit), he's found his own style within those parameters here.However, totally unforgivable as far as I'm concerned, especially in a book that set's in Nazi Germany withou I was going to give this book '4 stars' - it's much better than the first in the series, in that the writing is much less over-packed with self-conscious similies. While Philip Kerr is obviously still trying to emulate - or shall I say 'channel' - Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled style of narration (which I don't blame him for one bit), he's found his own style within those parameters here.However, totally unforgivable as far as I'm concerned, especially in a book that set's in Nazi Germany without ostensibly being pro-Nazi, is a hero who is more homophobic than the Nazis! I kid you not, I rather wish I did.There are two very nasty references (mild spoiler alert) about a couple of gay baddies, and they made my skin crawl. Totally unnecessary (and I won't even go into the sexism here).Needless to say, they spoiled the fun and the other, not inconsequential merits of this one...
    more
  • Wendy
    January 1, 1970
    I love Philip Kerr's books. The Pale Criminal is in the Bernie Gunther series, and is set in the years right before World War II. Gunther is not a fan of Hitler and leaves the police force in Berlin when being a policeman is not the same anymore. He becomes a private detective, but soon is drawn back to the police force when a high ranking official on the force wants Gunther to help solve the disappearances and murders of young girls in Berlin. Gritty and at times gruesome, this audio will keep I love Philip Kerr's books. The Pale Criminal is in the Bernie Gunther series, and is set in the years right before World War II. Gunther is not a fan of Hitler and leaves the police force in Berlin when being a policeman is not the same anymore. He becomes a private detective, but soon is drawn back to the police force when a high ranking official on the force wants Gunther to help solve the disappearances and murders of young girls in Berlin. Gritty and at times gruesome, this audio will keep you in your car (or doing chores/gardening whatever you do when you listen to a book) forever. Even the minor characters are fleshed out to perfection; the scenery is crisp (I've never been to Berlin, but I could see the buildings and feel the weather) and the storylines are woven around each other and together brilliantly. I admit I have not read the Gunther series in the order the books were published, but, you will easily pick up what you need about previous books by how Kerr writes.
    more
  • Judy
    January 1, 1970
    Usually I like reading historical fiction that deals with WWII and Germany in that era. I do like how this novel describes the period, but it is so dark. As the abstract states: “Hard-hitting, fast-paced, and richly detailed, The Pale Criminal is noir writing at its blackest and best.” I will need to wait some time before I read another in this trilogy, if I do. This one was so grisly that it was difficult for me to finish. Philip Kerr is a good writer, and the narrator, John Lee brings the book Usually I like reading historical fiction that deals with WWII and Germany in that era. I do like how this novel describes the period, but it is so dark. As the abstract states: “Hard-hitting, fast-paced, and richly detailed, The Pale Criminal is noir writing at its blackest and best.” I will need to wait some time before I read another in this trilogy, if I do. This one was so grisly that it was difficult for me to finish. Philip Kerr is a good writer, and the narrator, John Lee brings the book to life.
    more
  • Noel
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting look at pre-war Nazi Germany. The story revolves around a private detective solving the murder of his partner and, related, the murders of several young girls. More than a story the author brings the reader into an atmosphere of ethical evil, weaving in historical details of those dark times.My beef? The constant sexual graphic references which, though common for the times, were over the top - especially the very negative and derogatory references to homosexuals.The narrator of the a Interesting look at pre-war Nazi Germany. The story revolves around a private detective solving the murder of his partner and, related, the murders of several young girls. More than a story the author brings the reader into an atmosphere of ethical evil, weaving in historical details of those dark times.My beef? The constant sexual graphic references which, though common for the times, were over the top - especially the very negative and derogatory references to homosexuals.The narrator of the audiobook was excellent - however, if you are a visual learner as I am, the written version might be easier to follow. I had a hard time keeping track of names.
    more
  • Mark
    January 1, 1970
    I started with number five or six and enjoyed very much my first few Bernie Gunther novels, by Philip Kerr, but whilst delving into his 'back catalogue' I came across 'Pale Criminal', the second in the series, and I was struggling to finish it as it seemed a little too contrived, and too many coincidences, and too much flippancy (that began to grate, and remove the credibility quotient)...but I have tracked down more of his earlier works and I hope to find them more convincing.
    more
  • Rachel Pollock
    January 1, 1970
    I didn’t hate it, but the gruesome rapes/murders of the teenage girls are rough to read and feel gratuitous in a sense. Really illustrated how done I am with books where women exist to be brutalized as plot devices.
Write a review