I recently read Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr. It’s good — a Fifties-Iron-Curtain spy thriller gracefully mashed up with a pre-war murder mystery set in Hitler’s Bavarian country getaway, Berghof. It’s a repeat appearance for Kerr’s Bernie Gunther, an appealingly hard-boiled veteran socialist cop who finds himself working for National Socialist management.

Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr

And yep, there are Nazis in this story; the real not tiki-torch flavor. A couple of mega-Nazis, Bormann and Heydrich, and some relatively minor odd fish like Karl Brandt and Gerdy Troost.

Nazis are convenient for a novelist, because they are reliably evil and twisted, so he can economize on characterization and leave room for plot and atmospherics. Having said that, he cuts Troost a little slack; you’d have to be a better historian than me to know whether that’s a travesty or not.

Did I mention atmospherics? You’ve come to the right place. While substantial parts of the novel aren’t at der Führer’s country digs, the ones that are bask in deep you-are-there weirdness, and (I thought) a pretty deep take on what it’d be like for the yokels in a pretty backwater when the Fascist architects come to put up palaces. Some, predictably, react a lot better than others. But Kerr doesn’t pretend the presence of any serious resistance.

Hey, and here’s a fascinating little sidelight: The lead contractor for the Berghof construction was a company called Polensky & Zöllner; some part of which apparently still exists, albeit in Abu Dhabi. Their motto: “All knowledge comes from experience”. And yeah, they’ll still build you a villa.

Oops, I got distracted. This is a fine piece of writing, intense and atmospheric and instructive and just really good fun. Recommended.


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September 03, 2017
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