Berlin, 1934: The Nazis have secured the 1936 Olympiad. Hitler and Avery Brundage have connived to soft-pedal Nazi anti-Semitism and convince America to participate. Bernie Gunther, house detective at a Berlin hotel, is swept into the corruption. Havana, 1954: Batista has seized power; Castro is in prison; and the American Mafia is gaining a stranglehold on the city. Bernie, who has resurfaced in Cuba, discovers he cannot outrun the burden of his past.
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Philip Kerr is the author of many novels, but perhaps most important are the five featuring Bernie Gunther—A Quiet Flame, The One from the Other, and the Berlin Noir trilogy (March Violets, The Pale Criminal, and A German Requiem). He lives in London and Cornwall, England, with his family.From Booklist:
When we last saw Bernie Gunther, the Weimar Germany police detective and, later, reluctant SS officer in World War II had worn out his welcome in postwar Argentina (A Quiet Flame, 2009). Now it’s 1954, and Kerr’s cynical Chandlerian crime-solver has landed in Cuba, attempting to stay under the radar of those who consider him a Nazi war criminal. But Kerr is well aware that the heart and soul of his celebrated series remain in 1930s Berlin, where Weimar decadence sang its swan song to the rhythm of Brownshirts marching in lockstep. So, as he did in A Quiet Flame, Kerr combines the postwar story with a flashback to Bernie’s Berlin heyday. This time it’s 1934, and the Nazis are gearing up for the 1936 Olympics. Bernie falls headlong for American Jewish reporter Noreen Charalambides and agrees to help her promote a U.S. boycott of the Olympics by telling the real story about the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews. The plan falls apart, of course, leaving Bernie with a broken heart and Noreen on a boat for the States. Flash-forward to Havana, where Bernie runs into Noreen in a bookstore and quickly finds himself in another mess, this one involving American gangsters, Cuban rebels, and Noreen’s frisky daughter. There’s more than enough succulent atmosphere here for two novels, one for each setting. Both stories and both locales deserve star billing and seem a bit shortchanged without it. Still, there’s so much to enjoy here that it seems churlish to complain. On any continent, in any decade, no one does melancholy better than Bernie Gunther, and melancholy, after all, is the hard-boiled mystery fan’s emotion of choice. --Bill Ott
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