MARCH VIOLETS by Philip Kerr
Kirkus Star


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A splendid first thriller introducing Bernhard Gunther, a caustic private eye who solves a case of theft, murder, and corruption among the Nazis and their new supporters--the ""march violets""--in 1936 Berlin. When the daughter of Herr Doktor Hermann Six, millionaire industrialist, and his son-in-law, Paul Pfarr, are shot together in bed, their safe robbed of a fabulous Cartier diamond necklace, and their house torched, Six engages Bernie Gunther to recover the necklace without nosing into the family's private affairs. It's a hopeless charge, for Bernie soon finds that both Pfarr and his wife were cheating on each other; that the safe contained not only diamonds but evidence that Pfarr, secretly a storm trooper, had been gathering against Six; and that Six's young second wife, the film star Ilse Rudel, is worried that Bernie's really looking for evidence of her infidelity--and is prepared to do anything to talk him out of it. Eventually, Bernie realizes--with the help of his informer-turned-assistant, Inge Lorenz--that the murders and the theft of the papers lead in different, though equally sordid, directions. In the meantime, though, he's been pressured to take a series of even bigger jobs: one client, Hermann Goering, hires him to locate Gerhard von Greis, who has the papers from Pfarr's safe--papers Goering is intent on concealing from his archrival Heinrich Himmler; and another, General Heydrich, forces him into Dachau as an undercover agent to pry the location of the papers out of the safecracker Mutschmann. Bernie repeatedly gets set up and worked over by officials, crooks, and free-lancers, but always comes up with another wisecrack about life in the Third Reich, a rich field indeed for a private eye to work. Dark, complex, and relentlessly witty--a nearly perfect marriage of threatening background and twisted plot to a German Philip Marlowe.

Pub Date: July 7th, 1989
Publisher: Viking