by Philip Kerr
Not only could Philip Kerr make a living as a Paul Auster impersonator, he is one of crime fiction’s most literate practitioners. His 1992 debut, A Philosophical Investigation, was an effective if somewhat pretentious serial killer thriller filled with allusions to Shakespeare, Wittgenstein, Spinoza and Keats. Kerr’s style settled over time and has resulted in 12 novels starring Bernhard “Bernie” Gunther, whose present as a private investigator is inextricably linked to his past in the German SS. Most episodes centre on dilemmas created by Gunther’s morally flexible split personality. A Nazi with a conscience, a good man compromised by his previous existence, he is a pragmatist whose will to survive tussles with his inner voice. In Prussian Blue, Gunther is on the run after refusing to commit murder, pursued by former SS colleague Friedrich Korsch. Beginning in France, their game of cat and mouse interlaces with an old case: the pair investigated a murder at Hitler’s castle in Obersalzberg just before the Führer’s 50th birthday. Kerr has great fun with a fractious rivalry between chief Nazis Martin Bormann and Reinhard Heydrich, but doesn’t let the tension drop for a second.