Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Man Without Breath by Philip Kerr

Title:  A Man Without Breath
Series:  Bernie Gunther #9
Author:  Philip Kerr
Published:   April 16th 2013 by A Marian Wood Book/Putnam
Length:  480pgs
Format:  Paperback
Genre:  historic suspense
Shelf:  giveaways
Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the national bestselling author of Prague Fatale, a powerful new thriller that returns Bernie Gunther, our sardonic Berlin cop, to the Eastern Front.

Berlin, March, 1943. A month has passed since the stunning defeat at Stalingrad. Though Hitler insists Germany is winning the war, commanders on the ground know better. Morale is low, discipline at risk. Now word has reached Berlin of a Red massacre of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk. If true, the message it would send to the troops is clear: Fight on or risk certain death. For once, both the Wehrmacht and Propaganda Minister Goebbels want the same thing: irrefutable evidence of this Russian atrocity. To the Wehrmacht, such proof will soften the reality of its own war crimes in the eyes of the victors. For Goebbels, such proof could turn the tide of war by destroying the Alliance, cutting Russia off from its western supply lines.

Both parties agree that the ensuing investigation must be overseen by a professional trained in sifting evidence and interrogating witnesses. Anything that smells of incompetence or tampering will defeat their purposes. And so Bernie Gunther is dispatched to Smolensk, where truth is as much a victim of war as those poor dead Polish officers.

Smolensk, March, 1943. Army Group Center is an enclave of Prussian aristocrats who have owned the Wehrmacht almost as long as they’ve owned their baronial estates, an officer class whose families have been intermarrying for generations. The wisecracking, rough-edged Gunther is not a good fit. He is, after all, a Berlin bull. But he has a far bigger concern than sharp elbows and supercilious stares, for somewhere in this mix is a cunning and savage killer who has left a trail of bloody victims.

This is no psycho case. This is a man with motive enough to kill and skills enough to leave no trace of himself. Bad luck that in this war zone, such skills are two-a-penny. Somehow Bernie must put a face to this killer before he puts an end to Bernie.

My Review:

This is a very chilling novel. The author immerses you fully in the world surrounding WWII with this hard hitting story. This novel is well written and put together with a very solid storyline, or should I say intertwining storylines. They weave together in an intricate, formulaic manner that becomes somewhat predictable while remaining interesting. I really appreciated how solidly Kerr stayed within the time period in question. He uses real history to develop his work of fiction. I personally found the author’s writing to be quite heavy, making it difficult to really get into the story.

The characters in this novel were quite well put together. They were well developed yet remained aloof, as would befit both their station and the time period. Unfortunately, I found that although this lead to extra credence in the story it also added to its unapproachability at times.

This was definitely an intriguing read, if rather dense at times. It would be a great read for those who enjoy mystery and traveling back to the WWII era.

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