When Bernie Gunther takes on a blackmail case and gets involved in the affairs of British spies, the former detective risks exposing his own dark past in this thrilling novel hailed by The New York Times Book Review as “one of Kerr’s best.”
Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, 1956. Having gone into hiding in the French Riviera, Bernie Gunther is working as a concierge at the Grand-Hôtel under a false name. His days and nights consist of maneuvering drunks to their rooms, shooing away prostitutes in search of trade, and answering the mindless questions posed by the absurdly rich guests—needless to say, he’s miserable. Now, the man who was once a homicide detective and unwilling SS officer in Hitler’s Third Reich is simply the person you turn to for touring tips or if you need a bridge partner.
As it just so happens, a rich and famous writer needs someone to fill the fourth seat in a regular game at the Villa Mauresque. But Somerset Maugham wants Bernie to help him get out of a game far more dangerous than bridge. Maugham is being blackmailed—perhaps because of his unorthodox lifestyle, or perhaps because, once upon a time, Maugham worked for the British Secret Service...
Set in 1956 on the French Riviera, Kerr's assured 11th Bernie Gunther novel (after 2015's The Lady from Zagreb) opens on a dark note, with Bernie's confessing to a failed suicide attempt after his wife abandoned him. Bored by his current job as a hotel concierge, Bernie is brought back into action by bestselling writer and former spy Somerset Maugham, who lives in a nearby villa. Maugham, who's gay at a time when that was still a criminal offense in Britain, needs Bernie's help in dealing with a blackmailer who's threatening to publish a compromising photograph. Meanwhile, an attractive American journalist keen on writing Maugham's biography turns to Bernie for assistance in gaining access to him. The plot takes a surprising turn, but most compelling are the occasional flashbacks in which Kerr's hero tries to do the right thing while serving as a cop under the Nazi regime. Author tour.
Close to perfect
Philip Kerr has a great Bernie Gunther story on the 1956 French Riviera with names you will (or at least should) recognize as well as some of Bernie’s nemeses. It is a beautiful intricate spy plot enlivened with Bernie’s world weary humor. It is a great read and might be Kerr’s best.
Superb novel. Superb narration by John Lee, who is arguably the best in his craft. P Kerr novels are consistently excellent, but in context of audiobooks, those narrated by someone other than John Lee lack bite and are unable to capture the wit and spunk of the protagonist.
The Other Side of Silence