Kerr, Philip - 'The One From The Other'
THE ONE FROM THE OTHER by Philip Kerr carries on Bernie Gunther's story following the hugely acclaimed MARCH VIOLETS trilogy of detective stories set in Nazi Germany and early postwar Germany.
The hero, Bernie Gunther is a former Berlin police officer turned private detective then subsequently hotel keeper. Gunther is in the noir tradition, a decent and moral man in trying circumstances, who has tried his best to avoid betraying his principles despite serving in the SS and on the Eastern Front. The book begins with a prologue set partly in Berlin and partly in thirties Palestine, where Gunther is sent on a mission ostensibly to shadow Nazi intelligence officers, but in reality with the ulterior motive of facilitating a deal allowing a Jewish businessman to flee Germany. On his travels, Gunther encounters an array of important historical figures, including Eichmann and the Mufti of Jerusalem.
The action then moves to US occupied Germany in 1949. Gunther has acquired by marriage an unsurprisingly unsuccessful hotel in Dachau, the proximity of the former concentration camp being a discouragement to potential tourists. After his wife loses her sanity, and lies ill in a Munich hospital, Gunther decides to sell up the hotel and return to the PI business. He finds that his main business is in digging up information to save the bacon of "red jacket" prisoners of the Allies under investigation for war crimes. He is then given a seemingly routine case, by the wife of man who ran a brutal concentration camp in Poland, who is looking for confirmation that her husband is dead to enable her to remarry. Gunther has to dig for information amongst the shady clerics keen to help Nazis escape to South America, which proves to be a rather dangerous occupation. After taking a nasty beating, Gunther goes to recuperate in Garmisch-Patenkirschen at the home of a friendly hospital doctor, and decides to do a favour for a disabled friend of the doctor, who is unable to claim his inheritance in person. Gunther returns to Berlin under his friend's name for the inheritance. But when the heir's former girlfriend is found murdered, Gunther realises that a trap has been set for him, and that he is in danger both from former Nazis and from Jewish vengeance squads.
THE ONE FROM THE OTHER is tautly and impeccably plotted; all sorts of seemingly insignificant details are woven into a complex web of plot. Philip Kerr conveys a wealth of historical detail, capturing the moral ambiguities of a period where retribution and punishment of Nazi war criminals start to become a lesser priority than reconstruction of Western Germany and warding off the Communist threat. He sheds an intriguing light on some of the less well know aspects of pre- and post-war Germany, including the pre-war visits by Eichmann and other senior officers to Israel to meet with Zionists and the Mufti, and the role of the Jewish vengeance squads in the post-war period. This book is a highly intelligent and thought provoking historical crime story, pulling no punches about the atrocities of the Nazi period and the sometimes rather rough justice of the post-war period. I would thoroughly recommend THE ONE FROM OTHER to all fans of historical and noir fiction.
Read another review of THE ONE FROM THE OTHER.
Laura Root, England