A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr (March 19, 2009), 386 pages
This fifth book in the Bernie Gunther series alternates between Berlin, 1932-33, and Argentina, 1950. The book calls itself “Berlin noir.”
Description from Amazon:
A Quiet Flame opens in 1950. Falsely fingered a war criminal, Bernie Gunther has booked passage to Buenos Aires, lured, like the Nazis whose company he has always despised, by promises of a new life and a clean passport from the Perón government. But Bernie doesn’t have the luxury of settling into his new home and lying low. He is soon pressured by the local police into taking on a case in which a girl has turned up dead, gruesomely mutilated, and another — the daughter of a wealthy German banker — has gone missing. Both crimes seem to connect to an unsolved case Bernie worked on back in Berlin in 1932. It’s not so far-fetched that the cases might be linked: after all, the scum of the earth has been washing up on Argentine shores — state-licensed murderers and torturers — so why couldn’t a serial killer be among them?
But Argentina, just like Germany, holds terrible secrets within its corrupt halls of power. When beautiful Anna Yagubsky seeks Gunther out, desperate for help, to find out what happened to her Jewish aunt and uncle who have disappeared, he is drawn into a horror story that rivals everything he has tried so hard to leave behind half a world away.
In this new postwar world, Bernie Gunther is a man without a name or a country, but still in full possession of his conscience.
This book was … a bit too gritty, too crass for my taste.
I did enjoy the story, as well as learning about Nazis in Argentina, at least some of that which was recounted in the novel is apparently true. The writing (apart from the handling of certain things) was enjoyable, too.
These factors, however, did not outshine how some of the depravity depicted is handled. At points, it feels gratuitous. At others, it feels like it’s simply been handled too coarsely. Bummer. I won’t be seeking out more books by Philip Kerr.
Oh, by the way, this book uses a ton of acronyms.
I would link to the author’s website, but it doesn’t even mention any of this series of books — it’s all about his children’s books. His blog hasn’t been posted to since September.
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