Book Review: March Violets by Philip Kerr

August 21, 2013

Arti­cle first pub­lished asBook Review: ‘March Violets’ by Philip Kerr on Blog­crit­ics

March Violets by Philip Kerr is the first in a series of noir novels about Bernie Gunther, an ex-policeman who turned private investigator. March violets refers to Germans who went along with the Nazi violence mindlessly.

  • 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142004146

Book Review March Violets by Philip Kerr

My rating for March Violets – 4

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I read a few Bernie Gunther books before this one, but after I read the first one I ran out (meaning inside) to the store (Internet) and browsed (searched) for used copies of the series. Being a single minded Neanderthal, as my beloved wife can attest to, I decided to read March Violets first because… well… it’s first.

The novel has a murder/mystery aspect but even more fascinating is the sense of coping with Nazi horrors on a daily base. The sense of the Nazis taking over and destroying souls feels very real in this novel and is an underlying horror which is present on every page. The book’s psychological aspect (intended or not) of just how Germans went along numbingly with the Nazi atrocities is fascinating and disturbing.

Gunther is an interesting protagonist, a gray man who uses humor and sarcasm to cope with the endless bureaucracy, overbearing administration, criminal elements (both within and outside the law) and the brutality of the times. Gunther is never the smartest or strongest man in the room, but somehow he always manages to survive.

The writing is very good, but I have a feeling Mr. Kerr tried a bit too hard to make it a noir book and sometimes similes stretch for a few sentences which make the reading laborious. The overuse of similes and metaphors actually takes away from the excellent and rich storyline.

March Violets by Philip Kerr (web­site) is a classic hard-boiled detective story with a fast plot and brutal violence. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series which I know will become better.

Bernard Gunther is a Berlin detective, an ex-cop, who specializes in tracking down missing persons, especially Jews. A wealthy industrialist asks Bernie to track down the murder of his daughter and son-in-law who were killed during a robbery.

The investigation is anything but simple and Bernie is soon thrown into a world of political scandals involving artwork, Goering, Himmler and the upper German class. Before he knows it, Bernie finds himself watching Jessie Ownes make a mockery out of Aryan racial superiority theory, fighting Gestapo agents, shoot outs and as a prisoner in Dachau.

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More Books by Philip Kerr

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Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer:I bought this book.
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  • Alex BaughAugust 21, 2013 at 8:17 am

    I like Philip Kerr but haven’t read him lately. This book sounds interesing. Reminds me of the banality of evil Hannah Arendt wrote about.

  • AshleyAugust 21, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I never feel like I can ever get enough of WWII fiction yet I’m worried about this one because of “the overuse of sim­i­les and metaphors.” I love metaphors but I enjoy them the most when they are subtle. Similes usually turn me off because I find my mind distracted by analyzing the comparison. I’ll have to think about this one.

  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)August 21, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Sounds like a series I should check out!

  • Michael @ Literary ExplorationAugust 21, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Love the style of March Violets; Hard-boiled in Nazi German is awesome. I need to read the next Bernie Gun­ther book sometime

    • Zohar - Man of la BookAugust 22, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      Those are wonderful books and are standalone – looking forward to your reviews on them.

  • Helen Maryles ShankmanAugust 23, 2013 at 12:37 am

    Really great review, Zohar! I read this book last summer. I agree. Kerr makes it blindingly clear how easy it was for the average German to just go along with what the Nazis were doing. Something about his use of slang also gave me a sense of how much Bernie Gunther’s Berlin feels like any other cosmopolitan big city–in this book, Berlin feels like New York.

    Yeah, he went too far with the noir genre thing. Some of it really made me cringe. Still–I agree with you, the plot was a real juggernaut. And every now and then, he writes a really beautiful sentence that just makes you stop and say, “Wow.”

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