Bernie’s War

Philip Purser

  • A German Requiem by Philip Kerr
    Viking, 306 pp, £13.99, March 1991, ISBN 0 670 83516 1

Philip Kerr’s detective hero Bernie Gunther is Sam Spade with raw herring on his breath and a smattering of German or Germanic slang (‘Kripo’ for the Criminal Police, ‘bulls’ for policemen, ‘chocoladies’ for those of dubious virtue) stirred into his tough private-eye talk. He drags on a cigarette, keeps a bottle in his desk, has a way with women but not much luck with them. Underneath his sceptical exterior he is brave, persistent and not without honour. The thing that sets him apart from Spade and Marlowe and their legion of imitators is that he is based – or has been so far – not in urban America in the Thirties and Forties, but in the Berlin of that period.

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