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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Recently read: "If The Dead Rise Not" by Philip Kerr

If The Dead Rise Not

If the Dead Rise Not: A Bernie Gunther Novel

This review contains spoilers!

Another book by Kerr staring police/hotel detective/private eye Bernie Gunther.  The book opens in 1934, and Gunther has left the police force and is a hotel detective at the upscale Adlon.  As the Nazis continue to tighten their grip, he has to worry about his 1/4 Jewish heritage, and also about the cop he killed accidentally when he was accosted after not reacting to a spectator speaking "treason" (calling Hitler "crazy").  Berlin is trying to get ready for the 1936 Olympics;there's a mysterious death of a merchant at the Adlon and the theft of a Chinese box from the room of an American businessman Max Reles (a German American who is clearly mob connected).  He then helps an American writer, Noreen Charalambides, in the investigation of the death of a former boxer, who drowned.  Noreen wants find evidence of discrimination against Jews, and put pressure on the Olympics to pull out of Berlin. 

He and Noreen quickly fall in love, but his investigation ruffles the feathers of the wrong people, and he is imprisoned for a time.  Noreen buys his release by agreeing to drop her investigation and leaving Germany.  After being released, he figures out that the merchant's death was not by natural causes, but was murder (an ice pick through the ear).  He and Reles comes to an agreement: Gunther won't tell the Gestapo that Reles is Jewish, and Reles won't have his brother kill Noreen.

We then flash forward to Havana in 1954 (where Gunther ends up after his adventures in Argentina A Quiet Flame).  Gunther is under an assumed name, and runs into Noreen Charalambides.  She asks for his help with her daughter who is dating an older man; the man turns out to be Max Reles, who, along with his mob buddies, are running casinos in Cuba.  Reles wants Gunther's help in running his hotel/casino, but turns up dead.

A lot happens in this book, and as with all the other Gunther books, it's fairly depressing.  Any hint of Gunter finding happiness is typically crushed before the book is over.  I did find the section in Berlin interesting, with the run up to the '36 Olympics.  Both sections have the future looming over them (Berlin, with the war in the future and Cuba with Castro in prison and revolution to come).  Though Gunter is world weary and beat down, he will always have his own sense of honor.

The next book, Field Gray, is out now.

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