March Violets

March Violets



The Pequod Review:

Philip Kerr's March Violets is a noir mystery set in 1930s Berlin. The book's protagonist is Bernhard Gunther, a 38-year-old private investigator, who is hired by a wealthy businessman (Hermann Six) to recover a diamond necklace stolen from Six's daughter during a fatal robbery. His subsequent search uncovers a web of Nazi-related secrets. If you like Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled prose, you will probably find this book fairly well done — with decent-enough writing and not-implausible action scenes. He also includes some deeper insights into the reluctance of most Germans to resist the emerging Third Reich:

Driving west on Leipzigerstrasse, I met the torchlight parade of Brownshirt legions as it marched south down Wilhelmstrasse, and I was obliged to get out of my car and salute the passing standard. Not to have done so would have been to risk a beating. I guess there were others like me in that crowd, our right arms extended like so many traffic policemen, doing it just to avoid trouble and feeling a bit ridiculous. Who knows? But come to think of it, political parties were always big on salutes in Germany: the Social Democrats had their clenched fist raised high above the head; the Bolshies in the KPD had their clenched fist raised at shoulder level; the Centrists had their two-fingered, pistol-shaped hand signal, with the thumb cocked; and the Nazis had fingernail inspection. I can remember when we used to think it was all rather ridiculous and melodramatic, and maybe that’s why none of us took it seriously. And here we all were now, saluting with the best of them. Crazy.

March Violets is the first book in Kerr's Berlin Trilogy series; it was followed by The Pale Criminal (1990) and A German Requiem (1991).