Prussian Blue

Written by Philip Kerr
Review by Douglas Kemp

This is the twelfth in Philip Kerr’s popular Bernie Gunther series. It is 1956, and Bernie is still in France working as a concierge in a hotel in Cap Ferrat. But he also remains on the books of the GDR’s Stasi, and is summoned by Erich Mielke to travel to England and kill a former girlfriend of his using thallium. To persuade Bernie that the Stasi means business, he undergoes a mock execution, which has the effect of persuading Bernie to flee, back to Germany. While on the long drive from the south of France, he thinks back to his chequered police career and goes back to April 1939, when he was given a job by Reinhard Heydrich and Arthur Nebe to solve the shooting of a civil engineer, Karl Flex, in Bavaria. The sensitive element is that Flex was at Hitler’s cherished Berghof on the (now-notorious) terrace overlooking the Obersalzberg when he was shot. Hitler was not present at the time and Bernie was told by Martin Bormann to ensure he quickly cleared the matter up, and apprehended the killer before Hitler’s imminent return to his beloved Bavaria. There Bernie uncovers a dangerous nest of resentment and high-level murderous corruption.

In the narrative Philip Kerr provides a critical examination of the ruthless Nazi ethos of force, will and mendacity. While Bernie is by no means a perfect cop, he isn’t a Nazi, dislikes Hitler and his cronies intensely and he attempts to do what is right by the times’ skewed moral code. Even though Prussian Blue is part of a series, the books can be read with enjoyment on their own. This is a wonderfully well written and absorbing novel, full of fascinating historical detail.