Thoughts on: Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr

April 18, 2012
Article first published as Book Review: Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr on Blogcritics.

About:
Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr is a fictional book in the Bernie Gunther series. This is the eighthbook in the series which brings up the question: just how many lives does Bernie Gunther has?

  • 416 pages
  • Publisher: A Marian Wood Book/Putnam; Reprint edition (April 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399159029

Book Review: Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr

My rating for Prague Fatale – 5

Buy this book in paper or in elec­tronic format.

More book by Philip Kerr

Thoughts:
When I first read Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr I was a bit confused since the series appears out of chronological order. The first book I read in the series, Field Gray (my thoughts), was the seventh and I immediately knew I’d want to read more. I actually bought the collection of the first three novels titled Berlin Noir but haven’t gotten around to reading them yet.

Bernie Gunther is the perfect anti-hero, a tough and cynical Berliner, he is appalled by himself, the job he has to do, the country he loves and the people he works for and with. Bernie goes through life, agonizing over past actions, trying to do as little damage as possible, using a wry gallows humor as a defense strategy.

It’s amazing how many times, just in the two books I’ve read, Bernie comes close to death. The way he talks to upper Nazi officials he should have ended up with a bullet through the head, or worst, half way through the book. In the novel Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada (Every Man Dies Alone in the US) which is based on a true story, the two protagonist get handed a death sentence for doing much less. However they did not have Bennie’s high level Nazi contacts (“Vitamin P”), his army record (which includes some horrific acts) or his skills and cunning.

The plot is skillfully arranged, centering around a locked room murder in the summer castle of Reinhard Heydrich, Reichsprotector of Bohemia, a fencer, musician, fan of a Agatha Christie as well as one of the cruelest and most brutal in Nazi Germany known as “The Hangman” – and he’s also Bernie’s boss. The setting, Prague and a castle full of Nazis, is brilliant and shows that even monsters tend to blend into one another in a close setting. Towards the end, Mr. Kerr reminds us, in gratuitous detail, what the Nazis are capable of and that the regime is more than just an excuse for amusement.

More interesting than the murder is Bernie’s internal struggle to keep a piece of his humanity intact. Constantly struggling with a death wish, the protagonist is not afraid to speak his mind to commit death-by-Nazi and free him of his nightmares caused by participating in mass murders on the Eastern front (Russia).

The brilliant aspect of Kerr’s books, aside from the absorbing yarns, is that the settings are skillfully composed and bring a life of their own into the tales. The blacked out cities, difficult life, hunger and disease have a noir feel which can barely be captured on screen. Another aspects I love about Mr. Kerr’s books is that he does not underestimate his readership, when you read a Bernie Gunther novel you would need to know your history in order to understand the sardonic humor, period hypocrisies and best of all, the disturbing normalcy of unhinged authority.

Check out this & more World War II books on Man of la BookStore

Synopsis:
Bernie Gunther returns from the Easter Front to find that 1941 Berlin is not the city he left – and not for the better. Life is unpleasant in Berlin due to blackouts, Czech terrorists, RAF bombings and food rationing.

When Bernie’s old boss Reinhard Heydrich of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) orders him to Prague to spend the weekend in his country house with senior SS and SD figures, Bernie is obliged to drop everything and go. When a murder is committed in a room that was locked from the inside, the relaxing weekend turns hectic and Bernie is asked to investigate the mystery.

Buy this book in paper or in elec­tronic format.

More book by Philip Kerr

Check out this & more World War II books on Man of la BookStore

Zohar – Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I got this book for free

 

 

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8 Comments

  • John Gaynard April 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Zohar, I read Prague Fatale a couple of months ago. Your review does the book justice.
    Best wishes,
    John

  • Trev April 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Looks awesome. I want to read this…So which is the first in the series?

  • Zohar - Man of la Book April 18, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    The Bernie Gunther series consists of :

    – March Violets. London: Viking, 1989.
    – The Pale Criminal. London: Viking, 1990.
    – A German Requiem. London: Viking, 1991.
    – The One From the Other. New York: Putnam, 2006.
    – A Quiet Flame. London: Quercus, 2008.
    – If The Dead Rise Not. London: Quercus, 2009.
    – Field Grey. London: Quercus, 2010.
    – Prague Fatale.[2] London: Quercus, 2011

    However, the novels are not in chronological order.

  • Alex Baugh April 19, 2012 at 7:13 am

    Zohar, I started to read this series a while ago and for whatever reasons, I stopped even though I liked them. Your post is a good reminder to get going on them again and catch up. Nice review!

  • Jonathan April 22, 2012 at 9:01 am

    The Bernie Gunther series sounds absolutely phenomenal. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, and for your wonderful review.

    Jonathan @ I Read a Book Once

  • helen maryles shankman June 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Compelling review, Zohar! Now I have to read the Bernie Gunther books, they sound great!

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