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Philip Kerr
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
Berlin 1928, several years after the great inflation that could have so easily spelled the end for Germany and the height of the Weimar Republic. Bernhard Gunther is a working detective in the vice department and is summoned for a meeting with Bernhard Weiss Berlin’s chief of the Criminal Police along with Ernst Gennat one of his best homicide detectives, this meeting is to change Gunther’s career, it is the beginning of how he started his time in the murder commission of the Berlin Police.

The meeting goes well, and Philip Kerr managed to write three pages on the meeting alone which contained humour, the normal interview questions one would expect when being interviewed for an internal appointment and an insight as to what the job entailed and where Bernie came from, Kerr shows skill in setting the scene as to how things were ran back in the 20’s Berlin police.

He is given several files to read, each file contains details of a violent murder, they are linked by the MO, (modus operandi) and the victims jobs. All are prostitutes and all have been scalped!

Bernie has a break, no not in this case he quickly collars another murderer and so his time as a murder detective starts and it’s only a matter of time until another girl is found strangled and scalped, however the police are given the run a round by the unknown murderer who is leaving items at the scene. Then things take a turn for the worse. Berlin had hundreds, maybe 1000’s of disabled veteran soldiers from The Great War on the streets begging and or selling matches trying to make a living or just survive, these poor unfortunates suddenly find themselves targeted and the story steps up a gear, however Bernie and the rest of the police are at a complete loss with no leads, but then Weiss has an idea. And that is the outline of the story, no more from me.

So what was 1920’s Berlin like? I thought 1970’s/80’s Berlin was a den of iniquity but it appears that it was more like a big grown up sweetie shop for British squaddies compared to the 20’s which really did have a vice for every taste. Gay clubs by the score, transvestism everywhere you looked, clubs with live sex shows, catering for tourists from England, with Thomas Cook even getting a mention (apparently the English weren’t getting any back home) prostitution every where you looked and of course Ring Clubs. Criminal Rings, gangs which ruled the underworld, some more feared than others, one club in particular named after the infamous New York Prison Sing Sing complete with an electric chair! This was a club run by one of the most feared Ring. Kerr had a wonderful gift for mixing real social history of the time with his fictional stories, in fact both Weiss and Gennat were actually real life people in the role portrayed in this book, the author's notes at the end explains all this.

So do you like a good fictional murder mystery story? Do you like a good bit of social history? If so I strongly suggest you order your copy of Metropolis by the late great Philip Kerr; 364 pages of wonderful entertainment. If like me you have been to Berlin you will recognise some of the locations, I got shivers when he mentioned the green uniforms of the Berlin Police as I had an all too close encounter with them once, but that’s another story.

10/10 mushroom heads.

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Gout Man
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