It’s 1941 and Bernie is back in Berlin from his work with the SD (Sicherheitsdienst), the intelligence arm of the SS (the Kripo, Kriminalpolizei, or German equivalent to CID, were under the SD.). Having been exposed there the the truly awful ethnic cleansing and retribution of the “special action” squads who were killing rather indiscriminately, he’s considering suicide. Always skeptical of Naziism, he’s dragged into an investigation of a railway worker who had been murdered and then left on the tracks to be dismembered by a train. It gets complicated when he saves a bar-girl from what he thinks is a rape, only to discover she’s linked to Czech terrorists being sought by the Gestapo. There may be a connection as well to the man on the tracks.
But then things get worse when General Heydrich demands his presence in Prague to act as his quasi-bodyguard. (Reinhard Heydrich, also known as the “Butcher of Prague” was probably one of the least sympathetic characters to come out of Nazi Germany.) When one of Heydrich’s adjutants is murdered in a locked room, Bernie gets permission from Heydrich to be as impertinent as necessary in order to solve the crime. Here the writing sparkles with wit as Bernie gets to mouth off and intimidate all the SS generals. To complicate things even further, Bernie learns everyone except the adjutants and himself, has been invited to the Prague Castle because they are under suspicion as being a traitor running a radio link with the British.
I listened to this as an audiobook. Very well read (except for some German mispronunciations -- I do wish they would get readers who are at least quasi-fluent in foreign language words that appear in the books they read ), but I found one peculiarity. Throughout the book, which was not translated, but written in English, Hitler is referred to as “the Leader,” a literal translation of “Der Führer.” I think we’ve all become so accustomed to the German title that using “leader” somehow grates. Especially when other words, like Kripo, Kirche, Herr, Kommissar, Wehrmacht, and others are left in German.
Very entertaining. I’ve read many of the Bernie Gunther series and like them all, although the Berlin trilogy, the first three, a.k.a. Berlin Noir, are perhaps the best of the bunch. This is listed as #8.
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