Metropolis

First, a declaration of interest: I’m a fan, which will become evident..

This is the final Bernie Gunther novel, who for those lucky souls unaware, is the central character of thirteen previous books chronicling the fortunes and misfortunes of the German police detective, soldier, war criminal, Ost front POW, private investigator, waiter, concentration camp survivor, hotelier and occasional murderer, set mostly in Germany from the late twenties to the early sixties, by way of France, Cuba, Argentina, Austria, the USA, Poland and Russia (and no doubt a few other places). He is a hard-bitten, soft-centred character with a Chandleresque turn of phrase, brim-full of Marlowe’s one liners alongside Sam Spade’s surly insolence with a streak of ruthlessness a yard wide and of course a dollop of romanticism, who keeps trying to do the right thing, by his own lights. The tales have not been told chronologically, and each is a complete story in itself, so it really doesn’t matter which one you pick up first.

This story starts in 1928, and Bernie has just been promoted from the Vice Squad to the Berlin Criminal Inspectorate, the “Murder Wagon”, where he’s charged with investigating two series of murders. I won’t delve into the details of the plot further, as you should take this journey yourself, and not have its twists, turns and stomach-churning moments of horror diluted by my ham-fisted descriptions Set against the heights of bacchanalia and vice for which Weimar republic was notorious, the plot is littered with fascinating historic detail, beautifully described and coloured, deftly weaving real life characters into the story. The explanation of the political realities and niceties of working in an environment where Nazis and communists fight on the streets (both supported by factions of the government and police), with an ineffective government, constantly teetering on the edge of collapse and organised criminals in league with the cops, is breath-takingly believable. The depiction of the permissive Babylon that Berlin became is seductive and corrupting; I could almost smell the shit and blood dripping off the pages in places.

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The author has crafted this story as tightly and with the same attention to detail as the maker of a Swiss watch; every detail slots into place like part of a fine mechanism, and (to push the metaphor) there’s not a single jump of the second hand, the action flows like it’s on greased ball bearings. The tone of Gunther’s narration starts out as cautiously optimistic, ten years after the war to end all wars, nine after the flu epidemic which killed his wife, and with his country a democracy, unaware of the impending financial crisis, the victory of the Nazis and the war to come. As the story develops, however, the narration becomes darker and more cynical; by the end of the book, it appears the compromises and actions Gunther has made have rubbed the corners off his conscience and soul.

For me this is the finest book Philip Kerr ever wrote, showing as it does the development of Gunther into the cynical survivor that enables him to weather thirteen more stories without diminishing in the slightest. It is without doubt the best example of how to tell a story I have ever read. A well deserved 5/5 Mushrooms.

I have been and remain a passionate fan of Kerr’s anti-hero, and bitterly regret the passing of the author; for me a reading life with no more new Bernie Gunther novels in it will be a sadder and less enjoyable one. I feel nothing but jealousy for those of you have not yet read a Gunther story; to have the whole rich panoply to be experienced for the first time, just waiting for you to turn the page, all I can say is you have riches beyond gold, damn your eyes. If you buy only one book in the next decade make sure it is this one, or you’re a bigger fool than you think possible.

 
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Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
Should a novice start off with Metropolis or with March Violets? Chronologically speaking.
It doesn't matter really, but Metropolis is set earliest.
 
Should a novice start off with Metropolis or with March Violets? Chronologically speaking.

In chronological order they are

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 05 23.55.gif
 

Whining Civvy

War Hero
I picked up a few books from this series from the library yesterday and at first glance it's going to be an excellent bit of reading.

Thanks, OP. When I drown the world in blood and suffering you shall be spared.
 
I got hooked on Bernie Gunther during lockdown when a friend gave me a couple to start me off, ten books in now and I am desperatly trying to stagger the remainder to one every six months as there will be no more.

Bernie Gunther is a superb creation and Metropolis is as Themanwho says, really really good.
 
Best series ever. Now try the "Slow Horses" series by Mick Herron; at least he's still alive...

Ordered both the first of the Bernie Gunther, and the Slow Horses series of books.

Slow Horses arrived first, so I read it - to break up reading the treacle like book on Trump I started. I can honestly say that Mick Herron is an excellent wordsmith gripping the reader by the knackers and dragging them into the story. Once I started reading I did not want to put the book down both wanting to get to the end and also want the story not to finish.

I have already ordered the next two books in the series.

I start reading the Bernie Gunther tale tomorrow.

Slow Horses is being made into a series by Apple TV with Garry Oldman as Jackson Lamb and Kristin Scott Thomas as Diana Tavener, I await it with some trepidation as I have enjoyed the books immensely and am worried that it will not meet my expectations.

Oldman works at his craft so I hope he does a good interpretation - he did a good Smiley. My mental picture of Jackson Lamb is an amalgam of an overweight Captain I knew in HQNI and an overweight Major, then RO, from G2 in JHQ. Any Captain who sits in the Mess eating cold baked beans from the tin and then spends the next day farting loudly is a candidate for the Jackson Lamb award.
 

Slime

LE
Hmmm, And there was me thinking this thread would be about Fritz Lang’s ground breaking 1927 SciFi film...........Metropolis. :)

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Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
Hmmm, And there was me thinking this thread would be about Fritz Lang’s ground breaking 1927 SciFi film...........Metropolis. :)
Well it's tangential to the plot of the book if that helps.
 

Mufulira42

Old-Salt
Ordered both the first of the Bernie Gunther, and the Slow Horses series of books.

Slow Horses arrived first, so I read it - to break up reading the treacle like book on Trump I started. I can honestly say that Mick Herron is an excellent wordsmith gripping the reader by the knackers and dragging them into the story. Once I started reading I did not want to put the book down both wanting to get to the end and also want the story not to finish.

I have already ordered the next two books in the series.

I start reading the Bernie Gunther tale tomorrow.



Oldman works at his craft so I hope he does a good interpretation - he did a good Smiley. My mental picture of Jackson Lamb is an amalgam of an overweight Captain I knew in HQNI and an overweight Major, then RO, from G2 in JHQ. Any Captain who sits in the Mess eating cold baked beans from the tin and then spends the next day farting loudly is a candidate for the Jackson Lamb award.
The only thing I don't like about Mick Herron is having to wait for his next book -- damn I'm hooked on his characters and certainly recall a similar Chap -- Major, Br Army attached to HM's Colonial Forces, apart from an ability to fart long and loudly with accompanying stench whilst lying up in an ambush to the extreme discomfort of his loyal troops. Major F *******e was an incredible pistol shot. He could hold a matchbox out at arm's length, drop it, draw his Webley Mk IV from a modified bull-hide vault ( holster) and blast the box of Lion matches to smithereens before it hit the ground. No, he did not use a shot-cartridge but a standard 38 S&W round. He left many admirers amongst the 'Rhodies' for his ability to soak up lager and shooting skills. His returning to the UK (suspected MI 5) was a loss to all and his nickname "Hopalong Capacity" liveth on for evermore.
 
The only thing I don't like about Mick Herron is having to wait for his next book -- damn I'm hooked on his characters and certainly recall a similar Chap -- Major, Br Army attached to HM's Colonial Forces, apart from an ability to fart long and loudly with accompanying stench whilst lying up in an ambush to the extreme discomfort of his loyal troops. Major F *******e was an incredible pistol shot. He could hold a matchbox out at arm's length, drop it, draw his Webley Mk IV from a modified bull-hide vault ( holster) and blast the box of Lion matches to smithereens before it hit the ground. No, he did not use a shot-cartridge but a standard 38 S&W round. He left many admirers amongst the 'Rhodies' for his ability to soak up lager and shooting skills. His returning to the UK (suspected MI 5) was a loss to all and his nickname "Hopalong Capacity" liveth on for evermore.

Take a 'Like', sir.

Whilst I can shoot, I cannot shoot to that extreme, but I have seen some who can. A good mate used to practice his match shooting in the back garden using his s'pensive match grade air rifle to shoot the heads off matches at 10 metres.

I already have the next two Herron books awaiting attention on my to be read pile.
 

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