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The One from the Other (A Bernie Gunther Novel)by Philip Kerr
Synopses & Reviews
Germany, 1949: Amid the chaos of defeat, it's a place of dirty deals, rampant greed, fleeing Nazis, and all the intrigue and deceit readers have come to expect from this immensely talented thriller writer. In The One from the Other, Hitler's legacy lives on. For Bernie Gunther, Berlin has become too dangerous, and he now works as a private detective in Munich. Business is slow and his funds are dwindling when a woman hires him to investigate her husband's disappearance. No, she doesn't want him back — he's a war criminal. She merely wants confirmation that he is dead. It's a simple job, but in postwar Germany, nothing is simple — nothing is what it appears to be. Accepting the case, Bernie takes on far more than he'd bargained for, and before long, he is on the run, facing enemies from every side.
"Set in 1949, Kerr's excellent fourth novel to feature Bernhard Gunther (after 1991's German Requiem) finds the erstwhile PI managing a failing hotel about a mile from the site of the Dachau concentration camp. After the death of his wife, Kirsten, in a mental hospital, he calls it quits and opens a private detective agency. A series of missing-Nazi cases sets Bernie on a course that becomes increasingly complicated until he's beaten to a near pulp, had his little finger chopped off and is sent to a mysterious private estate to recover. There he's drawn into a nightmare involving the American occupation and the CIA, and soon his life hangs in the balance. Kerr's stylish noir writing makes every page a joy to read ('The little mouth tightened into a smile that was all lips and no teeth, like a newly stitched scar'). Perfectly plotted, the book builds to a satisfying conclusion. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In 1989, at the age of 33, the Scottish-born English writer Philip Kerr published his first novel, 'March Violets,' which introduced Bernie Gunther, a detective in Berlin as the Nazis came to power. It was followed by a second Gunther novel, 'The Pale Criminal,' in 1990, and a third, 'A German Requiem,' the next year. The three novels, relating Gunther's battle for survival before, during and after... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) World War II, won international acclaim and became known as the 'Berlin Noir' trilogy. Now, after 15 years during which he wrote other novels on other subjects, Kerr brings back Bernie Gunther in another grim, gripping report on the evil that men do. Several elements account for the excellence of the Gunther books. First, Kerr is a fine novelist; in terms of narrative, dialogue, plot, pace and characterizations, he's in a league with John le Carre and Alan Furst. Moreover, he has done prodigious research into an era that ended well before he was born. The political, historical, military and cultural details on every page feel absolutely authentic. If you want a sense of what Nazi Germany was like, day to day, not many novels equal these. Finally, Kerr was truly inspired to place a detective-turned-private eye at work in Nazi Germany. Private eyes investigate crimes, and where in human history can we find more cosmic crimes than those of the Hitler era? The question was whether Kerr would be equal to the challenge he set for himself. He has been. To offset the darkness of his story, Kerr made Gunther a wisecracking PI in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade and Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe. In his new 'The One From the Other,' he pays homage to both Americans. Hammett's 'The Maltese Falcon' begins with Spade receiving a visit from a gorgeous, duplicitous woman who proves not to be who or what she says she is. In Kerr's novel, in 1949, Gunther receives a visit from an equally striking woman who claims to be seeking proof of the death of her husband, a Nazi war criminal, but she, too, is not who or what she claims. Kerr's homage to Chandler lies mainly in his use of the over-the-top phrases that Chandler loved: 'Watching her eat a sandwich was like watching a hyena devour a leg of pork.' 'Menus the size of kitchen doors.' 'A fist the size of a small Alp.' 'A voice that creaked like the door on a Transylvanian castle.' And, my favorite, 'I felt as lonely as a fish in a toilet bowl.' I think Kerr uses too many of these — I think Chandler used too many — but they do provide an occasional smile amid a story filled with flashbacks to military atrocities, mass graves, widespread rape and fatal medical experiments on women and children. Gunther's search for the war criminal leads him to a Catholic priest who provides new identities, passports and passage to Argentina for ex-Nazis trying to flee the Allied forces — and the Jewish vengeance squads — pursuing them. For his curiosity, Gunther is seized by some Nazi thugs who beat him almost to death and chop off his little finger. While in a hospital, he is befriended by a doctor who takes him to his rural home to recover. There he meets a crippled former German soldier, and in time Gunther undertakes a mission to Vienna on behalf of this new friend. In Vienna, he is soon in deep, deep trouble. Few people in this novel are what they first seem, and Gunther finds himself the victim of an elaborate plot. The villains this time are not only Nazis but also Catholic priests and a corrupt American who is out to enrich himself and doesn't care how many innocent lives are lost. Even an unrepentant Adolf Eichmann turns up, seeking to escape to Argentina, as do other figures whose virulent anti-Semitism is shocking, even in this context. In terms of popular fiction, Kerr's Germany is as searing a portrait of hell on Earth as we are likely to see. Bernie Gunther, wisecracking but heartbroken, not only by his wife's death at the start of the novel but also by the death of sanity, of decency, of civilization itself, makes a gritty Everyman. We learn that, as a Berlin detective who despised Hitler, he was drafted into the SS. Assigned to a death squad, which would mean killing Jews, he requested transfer to the Eastern front, where he was taken prisoner. 'After my own experiences on the Russian front,' he tells us, 'I came to believe human beings were capable of an unlimited degree of inhumanity.' Elsewhere he reflects, 'If there's one thing history has taught me to believe it is that it's dangerous to believe in anything very much. Especially in Germany. The trouble with us is that we take belief much too seriously.' One of the bright spots in this always readable, often troubling novel is the suggestion, near the end, that Kerr's good German will return again." Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Grim and gripping, with all the author's customary sure-handedness in evidence." Kirkus Reviews
"Kerr is in command of nearly everything here — noirish turns of phrase...pacing, atmosphere, story and historical facts and events. It is neat to witness Bernie wisecracking a la Philip Marlowe within the constraints of the Nazi state." Denver Post
"Although Kerr sometimes overdoes his descriptions of characters...his dazzling touch will sweep readers away." Library Journal
Bernie Gunther, Kerr's best-loved protagonist, takes center stage in this fast-paced, twist-filled thriller that turns his acclaimed German trilogy into a surprise-laden quartet.
About the Author
Philip Kerr is the author of such thrillers as The Second Angel and A Philosophical Investigation, and the New York Times bestselling young adult novel The Children of the Lamp. Hailed by Salman Rushdie in the Independent as "a brilliantly innovative thrillerwriter," he lives in London.
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