Kerr (Field Gray, 2011, etc.) offers his eighth Bernie Gunther mystery.
It is 1943. Stalingrad has gutted Hitler’s Wehrmacht, but the Nazi plague infecting the East rages on. Gunther, formerly commissar at Berlin Police Praesidium, has been drafted into the German war effort as an investigator in the army’s War Crimes Bureau. Jaded and cynical, sardonic and impudent, Gunther is no Nazi sympathizer. He understands he’s to uncover only war crimes that might be used as German propaganda. There come reports of possible mass graves at Smolensk, and Gunther is sent to investigate. Propaganda minister Goebbels wants confirmation that mass graves are in Smolensk’s Katyn Wood, and he wants responsibility laid on the Russian NKVD. Kerr’s sketch of Goebbels dazzles. The author pulls the reader down into the dark underground of Der Führer’s rabbit hole of totalitarian horror. While supervising the exhumations, Gunther stumbles upon a plan by the Wehrmacht’s aristocratic Prussian Junker leadership to assassinate Hitler. Kerr examines the brutality of the Eastern Front war, the German attempt to wipe out the Jewish population, the Russian partisans’ terror tactics focused on the occupiers, the Gestapo’s retribution against innocents, and the racial and ethnic conflicts resolved by barbarity.
Kerr masterfully explores morality's shadowy gray edge.