Archive for October 1, 2009

The Pale Criminal by Philip Kerr was published back in 1990, and is the second book in the Bernie Gunther series. I re-read it this week after an interval of nearly twenty years while waiting for more of the CWA Ellis Peters nominated books to arrive. [Having read two of these already, I just have to read the remaining four before the 29 October awards ceremony.]

The Pale Criminal is set in Berlin in 1938, where Bernie Gunther is now a private detective. While Neville Chamberlain shuffles towards the surrender of the Sudetenland at Munich, Bernie is hired by Frau Lange, owner of a publishing company. She is being blackmailed over homosexual love letters sent by her son Reinhard to a Dr Lanz Kindermann, who runs an exclusive private German psychotherapy clinic where Reinhard sought treatment.

Bernie and his partner Bruno Stahlecker track the culprit down but when Bernie is summoned to meet with Reinhard Heydrich, head of the SD, Bruno and the blackmailer are both murdered.
Heydrich asks Bernie to return to the Kripo to investigate the deaths of four possibly five, blonde blue eyed Aryan girls at the hands of a serial killer. Heydrich is not a man you refuse.

At the same time, appreciating the difference between the SD, or Sipo as the Security Service was sometimes called, and the Gestapo was a rather more elusive matter, even for some of the people who worked for these two organizations. As far as I could understand the distinction, it was just like Bockwurst and Frankfurter: they have their special names, but they look and taste exactly the same.

As Bernie investigates the deaths he becomes caught up in the intense rivalry between the Nazi leaders, a despicable ‘blood libel’ plot and the Nazis fascination with spiritualism, the occult, and religion.

‘The Catholic Church is no less of an international conspiracy than Bolshevism or Judaism, Gunther. Martin Luther led one Reformation, the Fuhrer will lead another. He will abolish Roman authority over German Catholics, whether the priest permit him or not.’

The Pale Criminal seems to me to be a more harsh, violent and politically incorrect book than either A Quiet Flame or If The Dead Rise Not, probably because it is set in 1938 and the subjects it deals with such as, the serial killing of young women, homosexuality, and the stark brutality of a police state.
With such disgusting real life characters as Julius Streicher, Reinhard Heydrich, and Heinrich Himmler featuring in the narrative it is a bleak warning from history about what happens when the state does not just favour the criminal over law abiding citizens, but actually becomes the criminal.

This is an excellent novel with chilling characters, very dark humour, a tense plot and a feeling of historical authenticity that is stunning, it was yet another superb reminder of why I like this series.

‘Listen it’s only my good nature that stops me from marching you in there with your prick hanging out of your trousers.’

‘What about my civil rights?’

‘Shit, where have you been for the last five years? This is Nazi Germany, not ancient Athens.’


Posted: October 1, 2009 in Uncategorized


My second visit to the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival was on a Sunday morning when firstly we were entertained by a brilliant solo virtuoso performance by Simon Brett. I had heard Simon quite recently at the Bristol Crime Fest and once again he kept his audience laughing for the hour, quite an accomplishment at that time of the morning.

The second event was the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger winning author H.R.F. Keating interviewed by Simon Brett. Harry Keating is in his 80s, he looked rather frail and told us he was not very well and that was why he had agreed to an interview rather than attempting a solo performance.
The interview was very interesting even though it is many years since I read any of the Inspector Ghote books. Harry Keating was kind enough to sign one of his recent Harriet Martens novels and pose for a photograph.
I vaguely remember the Ghote books as being rather gentle and am interested to see how an elderly Henry Reymond [the correct spelling] Fitzwalter Keating deals with the modern world.
I must say Harry Keating did seem very much at home in the genteel English seaside town of Budleigh Salterton, which sometimes appears to be in a pleasant time warp.