A long time after the Berlin Noir trilogy, Bernie Gunther came back for more investigations…
Who is Bernie Gunther?
Series of historical noir detective thrillers written by Scottish author Philip Kerr (RIP), the Bernie Gunther series takes place before, during and after World War II.
Bernhard “Bernie” Günther is an ex-Berlin cop turned private investigator, a kind of Philip Marlowe in Nazi Germany. He is an honest cop trying to do his work in a corrupt world going crazy.
Bernie Gunther Books in Order:
The original Berlin trilogy was published between 1989 and 1991. Philip Kerr came back to Bernie Gunther in 2006. The novels were not published in chronological order, more about that at the end.
I. In publication order
a. The Berlin Noir trilogy
- March Violets – Private investigator Bernie Gunther specializes in missing persons, and as the Third Reich’s power has grown, Bernie has become a very busy man. But as he takes on cases involving millionaire industrialists, stolen diamonds, and Hitler’s most powerful cronies, Bernie finds himself mired in the brutality and corruption of a country on the brink of war.
- The Pale Criminal – In the sweltering summer heat wave of 1938, the German people anxiously await the outcome of the Munich conference, wondering whether Hitler will plunge Europe into another war. Meanwhile, private investigator Bernie Gunther has taken on two cases involving blackmail. The first victim is a rich widow. The second is Bernie himself.
- A German Requiem – Vienna, 1947. Bernie Gunther had his first brush with evil as a policeman in 1930s Berlin and came to know it intimately as a private eye under the Nazis, when each case drew him deeper into the enormities of the regime. Now the war is over and Bernie is in Vienna, trying to clear an old friend and ex-Kripo colleague of the murder of an American officer.
b. Later novels
- The One From the Other – Berlin, 1949. Amid the chaos of defeat, Germany is a place of dirty deals, rampant greed, and fleeing Nazis. For Bernie Gunther, Berlin has become far too dangerous. After being forced to serve in the SS in the killing fields of Ukraine, Bernie has moved to Munich to reestablish himself as a private investigator.
- A Quiet Flame – Buenos Aires, 1950. After being falsely accused of war crimes, Bernie Gunther—like the Nazis he has always despised—has been offered a new life and a clean passport by the Perón government. But the ex-Berlin detective doesn’t have the luxury of laying low. The local police pressure Bernie into taking on a case in which a girl has turned up gruesomely mutilated.
- If The Dead Rise Not – Berlin, 1934. Former policeman Bernie Gunther, now a hotel detective, finds himself caught between warring factions of the Nazi apparatus as Hitler and Avery Brundage, the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, connive to soft-pedal Nazi anti-Semitism before the 1936 Olympiad…
- Field Gray – During his eleven years working homicide in Berlin’s Kripo, Bernie Gunther learned a thing or two about evil. Then he set himself up as a private detective—until 1940 when Heydrich dragooned him into the SS’s field gray uniform and the bloodbath that was the Eastern Front.
- Prague Fatale – Berlin, 1941. Bernie Gunther is back from the Eastern Front, once again working homicide in Berlin’s Kripo and answering to Reinhard Heydrich, a man he both detests and fears. Tipped off that there is an assassin in his midst, Heydrich orders Bernie to join him at his country estate outside Prague, where he has invited some of the Third Reich’s most odious officials to celebrate his new appointment. One of them is the would-be assassin.
- A Man Without Breath – Berlin, 1943. A month has passed since Stalingrad. Though Hitler insists Germany is winning the war, morale is low and commanders on the ground know better. Then Berlin learns of a Red massacre of Polish troops near Smolensk, Russia. In a rare instance of agreement, both the Wehrmacht and Propaganda Minister Goebbels want irrefutable evidence of this Russian atrocity. And so Bernie Gunther is dispatched.
- The Lady From Zagreb – Summer 1942. When Bernie Gunther is ordered to speak at an international police conference, an old acquaintance has a favour to ask. Little does Bernie suspect what this simple surveillance task will provoke. One year later, a superior gives him another task that seems straightforward: locating the father of Dalia Dresner, the rising star of German cinema. Bernie accepts the job. Not that he has much choice – the superior is Goebbels himself.
- The Other Side of Silence – Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, 1956. Having gone into hiding in the French Riviera, Bernie Gunther is working as a concierge at the Grand-Hôtel under a false name. His days and nights consist of maneuvering drunks to their rooms, shooing away prostitutes in search of trade, and answering the mindless questions posed by the absurdly rich guests. Now, the man who was once a homicide detective and unwilling SS officer in Hitler’s Third Reich is simply the person you turn to for touring tips or if you need a bridge partner.
- Prussian Blue – The French Riviera, 1956: Bernie Gunther’s old and dangerous adversary Erich Mielke, deputy head of the East German Stasi, has turned up in Nice–and he’s not on holiday. Mielke is calling in a debt and wants Bernie to travel to London to poison a female agent they’ve both had dealings with. But Bernie isn’t keen on assassinating anyone.
- Greeks Bearing Gifts – Munich, 1956. Bernie Gunther has a new name, a chip on his shoulder, and a dead-end career when an old friend arrives to repay a debt and encourages “Christoph Ganz” to take a job as a claims adjuster in Athens, Greece. Under the cover of his new identity, Bernie begins to investigate a claim by Siegfried Witzel, a brutish former Wehrmacht soldier who served in Greece during the war.
- Metropolis – A portrait of Bernie Gunther in his twenties: He’s young, but he’s seen four bloody years of trench warfare. And he’s not stupid. So when he receives a promotion and a ticket out of Vice squad, he knows he’s not really leaving behind the criminal gangs, the perverse sex clubs, and the laundry list of human corruption. It’s 1928 and Berlin is a city on the edge of chaos, where nothing is truly verboten.
II. In chronological order
Some of those books offer stories in the past, but there are framing scenes in the 1950s. The chronological order is about the main stories, not about those scenes.
- Metropolis, set in 1928.
- If The Dead Rise Not, set in 1934.
- March Violets, set in 1936.
- The Pale Criminal, set in 1938.
- Prussian Blue, set in 1939.
- Prague Fatale, set in 1941.
- The Lady From Zagreb, set in 1942-3.
- A Man Without Breath, set in 1943.
- A German Requiem, set in 1947–48.
- The One From the Other, set in 1949.
- A Quiet Flame, set in 1950.
- Field Gray, set in 1954.
- The Other Side of Silence, set in 1956.
- Greeks Bearing Gifts, set in 1957.