James Gault reviews If The Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr
This is a book of two halves in almost ever way. The protagonist, Kerr’s cynical German detective Bernhard Gunther, Noreen, his American love interest, and his nemesis, the crook Max Reles, all appear in both halves. But this is about the only unifying element that blends the two halves into a single novel.
The first half is set before World War 2, the second after. The first half takes place in Europe (Berlin and Vienna) while the author transports the reader to pre-Castro Cuba in the second. And while our pre-war hero fights political corruption with the courageous foolhardiness of youth, his post-war disillusioned incarnation seems to have lost all his vim and vigour. As a result the second half seems slightly insipid and lifeless, although it does recover after the murder about half-way through.
I’ve noticed the same loss of virility while reading the series as a whole. With youth on his side and Hitler to hate, Bernie Gunther is a character that jumps off the page and grabs you by the throat. Older and relocated away from his home territory, to the Caribbean or the south of France, he’s just not the same man. This change of character may be a point the author wanted to make, bit it can’t avoid taking the edge off the intrigue a little.
But don’t let this little criticism put you off reading this. Kerr was a master of his craft and this is still a five star read. Enjoy it!
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