Like a rat on a treadmill Bernie Gunther is once more caught up in the games of those from his past. It's 1956 and Erich Mielke, deputy head of the dreaded Stasi, has invited Gumther to dinner to put a proposition to him. Gunther refuses. That defiance comes at a price--his life. Now Gunther is on the run. Chased from Nice to Germany, pursued by a former Kripo associate, Gunther recalls the last time he saw Friedrich Korsch.
1939 a mountaintop village in Obersalzberg--Hitler's retreat. Bernie is sent to investigate a murder to ensure the safety of 'the leader' when he arrives for his birthday celebrations. The timeline is short and intense. Bernie is in danger from an unknown killer and from those who give him his orders.
I vacillated between 4 and 5 stars, but came down on the side of 5 as I've kept thinking about the background to this novel long after reading it, the dark confrontations of life in Nazi Germany pre the invasion of Poland, the graft and corruption--the decedent absolutism and unlawful acquisition and manufactured evidence. Into this maelstrom of indifference and power, Gunther is thrown. Always a step away from his own destruction, a witness to the brutal demise of others, harsh punishments, and an ironical longing for the proper avenues of investigations. Gunther almost naively continually tries for the unattainable in this political climate of hate and greed--Justice!
How Gunther continues to come through with some form of conscience and positive core values continually amazes.
Always defiant, if not openly, Gunther tries to be what he espouses--a policeman committed to finding the truth, even when finding that truth puts himself at risk. As the layers of happenings are unravelled, the false premises discarded, and the kernel of truth looked for, Gunther places himself in a dangerous position. The politically correct story, the alternative, that is wanted by those in power is far from what Gunther uncovers. Part of that uncovering leads into hints of the future that we've already seen in another case.
Cleverly executed, Kerr once more comes up with a crime noir winner. Bernie Gunther, disenchanted, hard boiled, sardonic and at at times outright crazy (thanks to the amphetamines he's given on his arrival in Obersalzberg), admirer of cats (look for those occasions) is a winner.