March Violets, by Philip Kerr

1936, Berlin. PI Bernhard Gunther is called in by a wealthy industrialist to investigate the death of his daughter and husband in a fire that looks like arson.

Yet another genre for Philip Kerr: different from either of other two of his novels I'd previously read. This is the first of a series, and the second has already arrived from the library.

However... while I admire his ambition, and it's certainly a different perspective on this type of novel, I didn't really think this book was that great. It was interesting to have a story set in pre-war Berlin, and there is certainly potential for interesting historical information but I don't think the actual detective story was that good. I wasn't very gripped by the story, and so found it hard to concentrate on who was who.

There were plenty of players and organisations involved, including the Gestapo, Kripo, SiPo, the SS, the "normal" police force, and organised criminal gangs, and I couldn't keep track of who was in collusion or competition with who.

The story was written in the first person, and is either an homage or imitation of Philip Marlowe. But it was rather poor. I think what made things worse was that the reader was American, which made certain bits rather peculiar: he read in an American accent, but gave everyone else a German accent. And since the book was written by an English author, there were some jarring bits where he'd talk about e.g. "falling on my arse", where your ear was expecting "falling on my ass". Similarly he said "a to zee" a couple of times where I imagine the author would have pronounced it as "a to zed".

The second of the books came in to the library before I'd finished this one, but I think I'd not have bothered ordering it if I'd known how poor this one was. Still, since the library is closing for a few months I took out four other audiobooks so I'll go through them first; maybe the second one will be better.

Completed : 01-May-2010 (audiobook)

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