Well, that’s it then. Read my 14th and last Bernie Gunther detective. To my great regret there will never be another Bernie to look forward to. But I am happy to report this was a really excellent one!

I had the feeling that it had perhaps been Philip Kerr’s intention for a long time to write about the young Bernie Gunther. I might be wrong in my intuition about Metropolis, but I really thought it breathed the air of the older Bernie Gunther novels more than his last novels which were located at the French Riviera and the pre-ultimate one in Greece. Especialy, the pre-ultimate one, ‘Greeks bearing Gifts’ felt like Philip Kerr was at the end of his tether and his heart was not in it anymore which is understandable in view of his illness. So, I personally thought that it was a splendid idea of Philip Kerr to give us at last the young Bernie Gunther without the burden of his future life, all those murders, intrigues, betrayals, concentration camps, Hitler’s election as Chancellor, horrors like Himmler and Heydrich and other top nazi’s and the destruction of Berlin and Germany. You could say that Kerr made it easier for his fans to take leave of Bernie. At least, it had that effect on me. Here was the unknown Bernie with a clean slate and an unburdened past. But also the Bernie who is well recognizable in his independent reasoning and, naturally, his cynical wisecracks.

The novel is situated in 1928 and starts with Bernie’s first day as a detective in the Berlin Murder Division, having spent a few years in the Vice Department which was naturally very educational for him to get a good view of all the lowlifes, their connections and the places where they hang out. Bernie was really noticed for his talent, employing his creative independance and ability to communicate with each and everyone and was therefore asked by the Head of the Murder Division, a Jewish intellectual, to join his team. The Director, Mr. Bernard Weiss, is already starting to get harrassed by the fascists, but they do not have any substantial influence yet, especially in Berlin. In the Author’s Note at the end of the book, we learn that Bernard Weiss was a real historical person who fled Germany a few days before Hitler became Chancellor. But already in 1928, it is clear that things will be getting progressively more nasty, especially with those bands of Goebbels followers roaming the streets and taking pleasure in harrassing everyone, especially Jewish people. Bernie is put on the task of finding the murderer of 4 prostitutes. This murderer has the very nasty habit of scalping his victims, so he gets the nickname Winnetou, after the scalping Indian in the Karl May novels. Subsequent to these atrocious murders, begging WW-I veterans in wheel chairs in the streets are shot in the head with a single shot in the forehead. So there you go, Bernie is investigating nine murders as his first assignment.

Ian Rankin wrote a touching and interesting introduction to this last Bernie. He praises Philip Kerr for his humour, humanity and existential dread in the portrayal of Bernie Gunther and the description of the ever darkening world around him. I could not agree more.

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Metropolis - Philip Kerr
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