It’s my second encounter with Bernie Gunther in a few months’ time after a 10+ years break since I’d read the Berlin trilogy. Let me be short and to the point: although it was entertaining enough, it didn’t quite measure up to its predecessor, The One from the Other, that was focused on the immediate post-war and war criminals. Here Bernie is further away from his “base” and his wise-cracking manners à la Marlowe seem less original.
The book is structured in two parts: one in 1934 (and not 1936 as the cover mistakenly implies) when Bernie Gunther, freshly out of the police force because he wouldn’t join the Nazi party, has found a job as a hotel detective at the luxury Adlon hotel; and the second in Cuba twenty years later, where Bernie under his new identity of Carlos Hausner meets again with some protagonists of the first part.
The plot revolves around American gangsters ties to the Olympic games tenders, and the Nazi contradictions and corruptions, and how gangsters have found another calling in pre-Castro Cuba casino business. It’s interesting to see how all have evolved (or not) in the new world, but for 1950s-1960s hard-boiled set in America I’d rather take a James Ellroy book.
That said, Kerr still has the right recipe to make you turn pages without taking a breath. Research for both periods are so great you feel like you’re there, and I still laugh out loud at Gunther’s slangy expressions.
I’ve skipped A Quiet Flame, the novel that was set just right after The One from the Other and before this one, as it was set in Peronist Argentina and I didn’t seem to care so much. I look forward another episode that would bring Bernie back to his European past.