Tuesday, November 26, 2013

If the Dead Rise Not

If the Dead Rise Not
© 2011 Phillip Kerr
464 pages

            Bernie Gunther would be your standard-issue world-weary detective were it not for the fact that he just killed a Nazi.  Gunther has no love for the Nazis, who took power in his beloved Germany a year ago, and have in the year 1934 managed to reduce it to a joyless place for those who enjoy fast talk and loose women. Gunther is especially fond of both. Having quit his position in the police department to avoid having to fuss with the cretins in power, Gunther became the house detective of Berlin’s grandest hotel.  As it turns out, however, he has by no means removed himself from danger, and when an obnoxious American gangster claims a Ming dynasty artifact was stolen from his room, Gunther meets a man whose schemes will see the wisecracking detective arrested, and hauled out into the open ocean to be killed.  Though the man Max Reles appears to be a boorish businessman with a few shady operations, in actuality he’s in bed with Hitler – or intent on making der Fuhrer his purse. The political intrigue doesn't stop with Hitler, as the last fifth of the novel takes place in pre-revolutionary Cuba. The odd coupling of time and place that also appeared in Field Grey works here as well. If the Dead Rise Not is in turns disturbing and spectacularly funny;  one of the reasons Gunther can’t avoid trouble is his tendency to shoot off his mouth, and the book features a rolling barrage of one-liners, mostly taking shots at the Nazis. There are the usual thrills, of course – chase scenes, murders, numerous points wherein he seems well and truly doomed – and the obligatory twist and turn of the plot. Disturbing comes with all of the characters tendency to live in moral grey ares; the villain, who by actions ought to be detested, is one of the most entertaining men to read. Even Bernie, for whom he is a principle villain, can’t help but be tempted by liking him.  Happily,  everyone reaps what they sow, and eventually Reles meets the usual end of people who work with those like Meyer Lanksy.


"A Nazi is someone who follows Hitler. To be anti-Nazi is to listen to what he says." p. 70

"German history is nothing more than a series of ridiculous mustaches."  p. 73

"These days a considerate German is someone who doesn't knock on your door early in the morning in case you think it's the Gestapo." p. 86

"A German is a man who manages to overcome his worst prejudices. A Nazi is a man who turns them into laws." p. 88

1 comment:

  1. I shall definitely look forward to reading Mr Kerr in the (comparatively) near future....


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