Ron Rosenbaum

The single best historical/political private-eye novel I've read...

…is Phillip Kerr’s %%AMAZON=0142004022 A German Requiem%%. No ifs and buts, this is a novel whiich dares to set itself inthe same time and place as Graham Greene’s timeless novella/film The Third Man–post-War Vienna. One of his characters even mentions she has a minor part in the film Welles is making, and Kerr makes a pont of conjuring up the familair landmarks of Welles’ work, including that notorious Ferris wheel.

I had the good fortune to pick up this novel at the beginning of recent my book tour travels and there’s nothing like having a great, utterly absorbing read to make waiting around in airports one of life’s great unappreciated pelasures. Let the delays and the gate-changes come and go, I’m lost in the world of Detective Bernie Gunther as he tries to disentangle the utterly bewildering maze of overlapping jurisdictional, goeographical and moral complexities that are the legacies of the war, the war-guilt and the Occupation’s attempt at retrspetive justice.

A German Requiem is the third in Kerr’s Gunther trilogy, the previous ones being March Violets and The Pale Criminal, both of which I found top notch evocations of the oncoming dread as experienced by a non-poltical cop in pre World War II Nazi Germany.

But for some reason I never caught up with A German Requiem which was published back in 1991. Better late than never. It’s spectacular–

good as Kerr’s previous two in the series were, this one raises the level of his game to dizzying new heights of political acuity and moral complexity. And the more we’ve learned about Allied complicity with ex Nazi war criminals in the aftermath of the War’s end since 1991, the more prophetic, and deeply disturbing it becomes. And for its intimate evocation of the sinisiter chiaroscuro of Vienese culture there is nothing better except–perhaps–The Third Man.

A German Requiem is an illustration that in the hands of someone like Kerr, the private eye genre has no limit on the level of literary profundity it has the potential to reach.