Prussian Blue

Books, movies, plays about the Nazi Third Reich these days often seem to remind people of the old film  "It Can't Happen Here".  Not just in the US, but especially there.  36 hours from this writing, we'll know whether France has become another setting for apprehension as the old, the postwar, seems to pass. 
Philip Kerr's "Prussian Blue" will do nothing to discourage thoughts about "It Can't Happen Here".  It climbs all over the terrain of the Nazis, in the 30's, then communist East Germany in the 50's, with sure steps.  Featuring German detective Bernie Gunther, whose adventures illuminate those times and personalities with biting wit, irony and Kerr's superb talent with dialogue.  When Gunther confronts a Nazi higher-up - and there are plenty of such scenes - the reader instinctively hears real people talking, the way real people talk.
That said, Nazis are an easy target.  Is this yet another condemnation, disguised as fiction?

It is not.  Hitler does not appear - though he is what might be called the diabolus ex machina.  The story mercilessly describes those who worked for him, murdered for him, butchered and tortured opponents and innocents.  Its subtlety and its message are not about Nazis so much as about the kind of human failings Gunther has encountered long before, as an investigator for the police.  

That's worth a moment's reflection.  An author might be tempted - for philosophical or commercial reasons, or both - to take the easy way, to make the villain of the piece one of the Nazi high command.  I applaud Kerr for not doing so.  Without giving away too much, the murderer turns out to be a rather humdrum non-Nazi who's killed a man who embarrassed him, his wife, and his son.  His motive has nothing to do with the politics or the times.
In other words it is a timeless tale, whose antecedents run, for example, to the Orestaia, rather than the Nazis.  As it takes place in two different eras - !939, in and around Hitler's mountain retreat, and 1956, when the STASI's long-time leader, Erich Mielke, pursues Gunher on a wild escape from the French Riviera to West Germany - it not-too-subtly invites the reader to equate the two regimes.  
This is but the latest in a very creative series about Gunther.  They're all first-class, and both Kerr and Gunther seem to me like old friends I was glad to see again.

The Paris Insider Newsletter

THE PARIS INSIDER family of weekly newsletters,Including THE PARIS INSIDER (Tuesday,) THE PARIS READERS CIRCLE (Wednesday,) THE PARIS WEEKENDER (Thursday,) and THE PARIS INTERVIEW (Friday) offer freshly written reviews about restaurants, museums, books, events, showings and what's on in Paris. Arriving at 9:15 AM Pacific Time you'll receive all of this plus tips on excursions to the surrounding regions from Champagne to the Loire Valley and much more. Thank you for subscribing.