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Set in the spring of 1943, Kerr's captivating ninth Bernie Gunther novel (after 2011's Prague Fatale) takes Gunther-now attached to the Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau-from Berlin to Smolensk, to investigate mass graves of Polish officers discovered in the nearby Katyn forest. Josef Goebbels, seeking a propaganda coup after Germany's Stalingrad defeat, is keen to pin the atrocity on the Soviets. The tormented honest cop also gets on the trail of a killer targeting German soldiers, even as he finds himself in an anomalous moral position ("a situation in which you can have an army corporal hanged for the rape and murder of a Russian peasant girl in one village that's only a few miles from another village where an SS special action group has just murdered twenty-five thousand men, women and children"). Kerr makes everything look easy, from blending history with a clever and intricate whodunit plot to powerful descriptions of cruelty. Agent: Caradoc King, A.P. Watt (U.K.). (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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When Bernie Gunther, a former Berlin detective now working for the War Crimes Bureau in Nazi Germany, is sent to investigate a possible mass grave site near Smolensk, Russia, in March 1943, he soon finds that nothing is straightforward. Goebbels, the minister of propaganda, is pressuring him to help Nazi public relations by finding evidence of Soviet atrocities against Polish officers in the Katyn Forest, but when several Germans are viciously murdered Bernie believes a German is responsible. Bernie's bosses are Prussian aristocrats who close ranks against a cynical, sarcastic investigator opposed to the Nazi regime and driven to seek the truth regardless of political considerations. VERDICT This ninth Bernie Gunther tale (after Prague Fatale) focuses on two months of 1943, mixing real-life characters with fictional ones. Kerr's historical knowledge and writing skills merge these elements seamlessly in a gripping story of murder, but it is Bernie who holds it all together even as he questions the absurdity of attempting normalcy during war. Mystery, historical fiction, and military history buffs will join existing Bernie fans in welcoming this latest installment in the series.-Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* As we learn more about what Bernie Gunther, the Berlin cop turned PI turned reluctant SS member, really did in the war particularly his experiences on the bloody, atrocity-riddled eastern front a common theme emerges: staying alive. Bernie despises Nazis, of course, but he's no friend of the Communists, either, and, for that matter, the British just happen to be bombing the hell out of his hometown. It's 1943 after Stalingrad and every ordinary German, in the service or not, knows the war is going badly. Bernie is just hoping to survive the end game when he is sent to Smolensk, where evidence has surfaced of the massacre of Polish officers by the Red Army in the Katyn Forest. The German propaganda machine, led by Joseph Goebbels, could use a good story, and this has the makings of one. Bernie's job is to monitor the exhumation of the mass graves, try to find witnesses to the atrocity, and feed reports to Goebbels. But there's a problem: there's a murderer in Smolensk who seems to want to kill everyone with something to say. And then there's the matter of a new plot to assassinate Hitler fomenting among the Wehrmacht's old guard. Bernie, naturally, is caught in the middle of it all, with no horse in the race except solving the case in front of him and saving his own skin. Once again, Kerr vividly captures the excruciating moral ambiguity of Bernie's position, driving home the point that cynicism is the only sane reaction for a man on the wrong side of history. Superb as always.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist