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Another guided tour through the lowest circles of Nazi Germany, as wisecracking p.i. Bernhard Gunther gets pulled off his investigation of homosexual blackmail to rejoin the police force in tracking down something even more obscene: a torturer-killer of teen-aged girls. The blackmail case--who wants Reinhard Lange's wealthy, publishing-empire mother to buy back Lange's too-frank letters to psychiatrist Dr. Lanz Kindermann?--lasts just long enough to introduce Bernie's new partner, Bruno Stahlecker, before he's killed off (by the blackmailer? by the police?). Reluctantly conscripted to the force as Kommissar Gunther, Bernie's meant to cover the embarrassing official attempt to frame Jewish petty criminal Josef Rahn for the grisly (bondage-sex-torture) murders--an attempt that fell through when the killings continued after Rahn's arrest. Tramping from whorehouses to pornographic publishers to grieving families, he uncovers a vicious plot to fleece the parents of missing girls by revealing the whereabouts of their corpses in bogus sÉances--a plot that brings him face to face once more (holding hands, no less) with Heinrich Himmler; leads inevitably to revelations of government-sanctioned murder (the Nazis are exploiting the blood libel of Jewish ritual murder in order to provoke the rioting of Kristallnacht); and returns, just as inevitably, to the blackmail case he thought he'd left behind. Throughout, the stench of official corruption so common to the hard-boiled genre ever since Chandler is intensified by sickening snapshots of Hitler's regime. More conventional in every way than Bernie's brilliant debut last year in March Violets--but Bernie's horrifyingly jokey Nazi hell makes it as strong as any mystery since then.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Viking