Book review – A German Requiem

A German Requiem is the final part of Philip Kerr’s ‘Berlin Trilogy’.  I’d enjoyed the first two parts, March Violets and The Pale Criminal, enough to keep on going.  The first two books saw us in 1936 and 1938, respectively.  A German Requiem finds us after the war, in 1947.  Bernie Gunther is back in his job as a Private Investigator and is now a married man, residing in a divided Berlin.

We’re not in Berlin for long, however.  Most of the novel is set in a similarly divided Vienna, where an old colleague of Gunther’s is in jail accused of the murder of an American officer.  Gunther is of course hired to exonerate the former, bringing him into close contact with the Brits, Austrians, ‘Amis’ and ‘Ivans’ and a secret organisation of former Nazis.

The book is well written and evocative of post-war Vienna. Gunther himself seems to be a harder character than in previous books but remains one of the good guys.  Like the other parts of the trilogy, the plot is an elaborate one, where, in true noir style, it’s not entirely clear what’s going on (well, not to me anyway!).  And true to the formula of Violets and Pale Criminal there’s more going on than at first appears.  While I can understand the author’s desire to keep his cards close to his chest as long as possible, this is somewhat of a shame as I think the book would benefit if the ‘reveal’ arrived a little earlier.

Nevertheless, like the other books in the Berlin Trilogy, Requiem is well worth the read. I’m sure I’ll delve into more of Kerr’s Gunther novels, not least as some of them are set during the war, plugging the gap between Pale Criminal and Requiem.