Kerr’s compelling hero returns

2011-02-02 00:00

BERNIE’S back. For Philip Kerr’s fans, that means delight. Field Grey is the seventh outing for Bernie Gunther, the world-weary former Berlin cop turned private detective, turned SS officer, turned POW in Russia, turned exile in Argentina, Vienna and Cuba.

Bernie is back in more ways than one, because he is now, in the 1950s, back in Germany. In Kerr’s previous Bernie Gunther novel, the award-winning If the Dead Rise Not, that was what Bernie, living in Cuba under a false name, wanted, but perhaps not quite in the way it happens here.

As always with Kerr, readers need to keep their wits about them. The action jumps around between 1930s Berlin, wartime Paris, the horrors of a post-war Russian POW camp, Cuba and back to 1950s Berlin. It is sometimes quite a challenge to keep track of what is going on where, but the effort is worth it.

Bernie has never been a conventionally heroic figure. There are things in his past, such as violence and compromises with evil people, including the creepy figure of Reinhard Heydrich, that make it understandable that some of those after him this time round consider him a war criminal. But Bernie is an Everyman, good in parts, bad in others, who is just trying to get by in a world gone mad; and if that means trusting nobody, who can blame him?

In Field Grey, we learn more about Bernie’s war, and some of the things that have made him as cynical and wary as he now is. Kerr recreates the horrors of wartime and its aftermath with immense skill, and while Field Grey is a thriller, it is also a serious look at its times with plenty of historical characters making important appearances.

The writing is as witty and dry as ever, and although Bernie Gunther’s flaws are there for all to see, Kerr makes him, with his deeply compromised decency, one of the most rounded and compelling heroes of any series of novels.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.