It’s 1934, and Bernie Gunther’s chasing bad guys in Hitler’s Berlin. It’s 1954, and bad guys are chasing Bernie in the Mafia’s Havana.
Twenty years will mark a man’s face. It will also mark his psyche, and Bernie, ex-homicide detective, ex-hotel dick, ex-soldier in two losing wars, ex-secret policeman in Hitler’s despised S.A., has a deeply damaged one. Skeptical to the point of cynicism, a bred-in-the-bone survivalist, he’s lied, cheated and, on several occasions, murdered to stay alive. And yet there’s that inextinguishable Galahad in him—obdurate, and often as not painfully inconvenient. In 1934, for instance, when it would have been so easy to join the Nazi party and keep his job, he declined the invitation. And Bernie truly relished being a homicide cop. The fact that he saw the Weimar Republic as seriously flawed and probably not worth the sacrifice didn’t matter. Loyalty mattered. Flash forward to 1954. It’s not been an easy couple of decades for Bernie, including two miserable years in a Russian prison camp. Now here he is in Havana, confronting déjà vu situations and at least two very unsettling people: Noreen Charalambides, a beautiful Jewish woman he’d loved and risked for, and Max Reles, a ferocious gangster he both hated and feared. In Berlin, Noreen had enlisted him in a cause he knew was lost, and that, thanks to Reles, he had almost died for. Suddenly, Berlin is an unfinished story, and Bernie has choices to make.
Another sexy, mordantly funny, thinking man’s thriller from Kerr (A Quiet Flame, 2009, etc.), who, despite an impressive body of work, continues to fly under the radar.