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4.1 out of 5 stars12
4.1 out of 5 stars
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Bernie Gunther has been very entertaining - the life he lives, created by Kerr, takes us from the trenches of WW1 now to 1950's Cuba. I have read each entry and appreciate the hard-boiled character, the history mash-ups, and the underlying mysteries. Unfortunately, this effort does not measure up to the previous works. The plot was slow and predictable. The first half of the book in 1934 Germany moved at a glacier-like pace and the whole gangster angle was actually boring. Still the history was accurate and Bernie's Zelig-like appearances with leading figures of the day continues to intrigue. I am now torn between desiring another one or letting Bernie retire after a life well lived.
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The mark of any good novelist is his or her ability to continually pump out a story time after time that connects their readers with an endearing set of main characters, a complex plot and an effective resolution to all the encompassing issues. Once again, Philip Kerr does all these things exceedingly well to the point of leaving very little left to be done with the life of Bernie Gunther, his celebrated protaganist. However, I hestiated giving "If the Dead Rise Not" top billing because I felt the plot dragged in places with a lot of seemingly unnecessary to and fro action coming from Bernie's life as a quick-witted gumshoe in Nazi Berlin. Unlike a lot of Kerr's earlier works time does weigh heavy on the lives of many of the individuals in this tale, especially when there are so many loose ends to tie up. Other than that, the book is a winner, though probably an indicator that we will not likely see any new editions to the Gunther saga anytime soon. Here is a list of slice-and-dice observations that might help you decide whether to read this book, even if you are coming across Kerr for the first time:
A. The storyline is anchored in history so that the reader can relate to a real set of circumstances paralleling the fictional version. This style of writing meets with my approval because it pays respect to the fount of all stories and myths: history;
B. The involved sequence of events gets into the nitty-gritty of people's lives as they interact with each other. Kerr has alwsys been a master at bringing characters together in intriguing and revealing ways;
C. The Nazis come across as the ultimate force of moral and political corrption. There is nothing likeable about these goons as they attempt to corrupt all those around them in their sweep to power in the 1930s;
D. Berlin is presented as a world city full of cultural cross-currents that range from the decadent bourgeoisie to the proletariat revolutionary;
E. Gunther is viewed as a character on a mission to stay alive while saving what little integrity is left in his life by doing what is right even when all around him is awash in moral degradation;
F. As in "Quiet Flame", the author performs a nice litte segue with a sequel showing Gunther surviving the atrocities of Nazi Germany only to resurface in 1950's Cuba in another corrupt environ being run by the evil dictator Batista. Like in his previous lives in Berlin and Buenos Aires, Gunther is not easily corruped. He knows where to draw the line between working for thugs like Max Reles and being true to his own sense of survival and moral certitude;
G. Kerr stirs up the pot by introducing some big-name controversies to serve as background to the main story. Check out the Avery Brundage connection and you might be surprised to learn a few interesting tidbits about how this shyster cut a special deal with Hitler to prevent a boycott of the 1936 Olympics;
H. The theme in Kerr's books never changes: evil and corruption are forces that know no bounds as they spread their slimy tentacles across the human landscape, even to the point of often compromising the forces of goodness and decency a long the way;
I. There is a very strong sense of pervading doom in this book that Kerr very ingeniously uses to drive his plot. Gunther's visit to a Nazi prison in the middle of the night to have a first-hand, chilling view of the 'falling axe' is just one of many events that draws the reader deeper into this engulfing murderous mystery.
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This is the first Philip Kerr-Bernie Gunther novel I've read, even though I am a great fan of historical fiction, particularly World War 1 and World War 2 genre. I picked this up and even though I probably should have started with Kerr's earlier books to get an idea of the Bernie Gunther character, this book was a very good read.

Set in Berlin in 1934 and involving some hefty plot points like Nazis, the coming Berlin Olympics, and several suspicious deaths Bernie investigates, the same characters meet up in Havana 20 years later. People are still meeting untimely ends and Bernie, who has evidently lived a cat's nine lives in the intervening twenty years, is involved. Many "real life people" make appearances in the book, including the whole Meyer Lansky crowd in 1950's Havana gambling spots and hotels.

Kerr is an excellent writer. He introduces plot points and characters who, in a lesser writer's hand, would seem slightly ridiculous. As a first time reader of the Gunther novels, I was introduced to nuanced character whose adventures I will now seek out in Kerr's backlist.
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on October 17, 2010
Philip Kerr is terrific and his character Bernie Gunther is an absolute delight , this is my second Gunther novel and I have now ordered the others is this series. Provides real insight to life inside Hitlers Germany . Highly recommend this seies and hope Kerr writes many more.
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on October 24, 2012
An excellent book, but the ending was a bit predictable. The entire series is a very reliable source of good reading, and I really enjoy the author's overall writing style. I have yet to read a book from Philip Kerr that I didn't like.
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on May 6, 2014
like all of philip kerrs book, you can never put it down. he has a real talent for generating sympathy for those you least expect. he is the dashiel hammett of today.
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on March 5, 2013
Great great great great Great great great great Great great great great Great great great great Great great great great, did I say great?
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on July 11, 2013
I started this series and couldn't put it down. I read the first Bernie Gunther story and was hooked. Great storytelling!
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on October 3, 2015
Weakest yet of the Gunther novels. Kerr has put the bar quite high but this is tedius and a struggle for 200 pages.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 25, 2010
I pains me to give such a low review to a book in a series that I love. But I need to be fair and to warn other readers of the series. Something tragic happened to Philip Kerr's writing style here as it went dangerously off the rails. He fell in love with the similie and used them up to eight to ten times in a single paragraph. It slowed the reading down, became tiresome not illuminating, and in the end irritated. I agree with the reviewer who said the first part of the book moved incredibly slowly, this however in my opinion, was because of the style of writing not because of the plot. Bernie's wit, if you can call it that, here is strained to the breaking point. He is not 'funny' most of the time with his asides and comebacks ... he comes across as an aging jerk still trying to be cool. I've read and savoured every book in the series, save this one. I've looked forward with anticipation to reading the next one ... well the next one is out and I haven't yet bought it. Don't know if I will. This was one bad reading experience. Enter warned ...
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