Philip Kerr, Greeks Bearing Gifts (2018)

Last time I read a Bernie Gunther was in summer 2019 with The Lady from Zagreb, but I thought it was way longer than that. I got this one on a Kindle deal, and I was not careful enough to notice that there are actually 2 books between this one and the Balkan one. Not that I usually care, and not that Philip Kerr wrote the books in chronological order anyway.

The book is set 12 years after the end of the war and lots have happened since. Some people try to forget, some people want to be forgotten and some don’t want the events to be forgotten too soon and too conveniently. Bernie Gunther probably is a mixed of the three at the beginning of the book as he works under another name as a hospital morgue attendant: not a place where customers are inclined to chit-chat or ask questions. But by a strange turn of events, Bernie takes a new career as an insurance claim adjuster, because his new bosses see his detective skills as very useful to check if claims are legit or scams.

He is sent to Greece to investigate a claim on a sunken boat owned by a German guy. The boat was officially searching for antic artifacts, but with the German looking quite dubious and carrying a gun, there’s got to be more to it, right?

I quite enjoyed reconnecting with Bernie in peace times. Indeed, there was less graphic violence than novels set in war times (duh), but he was also more philosophical and a bit less sexist (although he still has an obsession for women’s clivage and the love interest in the book seems a bit pale in my opinion). The book plot is rather complex and takes quite a while to start off (he gets to Greece at about one quarter of the book) The funny thing is that he’s supposed to have a Berlin wise-ass humor, but I found that he has a rather British wit about him that I do enjoy very much.

Bernie has a lot to say about the newly created European community where Germany has a lot of power (notably over poor countries like Greece) and a clean bill of respectability. Wealth and economic growth have helped Germany in its quest for dominance more than war itself, and war criminals are now respected leaders. Kerr has always been quite good at research, and you can count on his books to teach you more than a few (not fun at all) facts, here in particular about the fate of Thessaloniki Jews (a large community almost entirely killed during the Holocaust). I saw that the reviews in Goodreads by Greek readers tend to be more of 2* or 3*, because Kerr’s view of the Greeks is not very positive. He uses so many stereotypes against them that it’s no wonder readers get offended. It’s not the best Bernie Gunther book and certainly not the one to start with, but by now I’m too invested in the series and I will get to the missing ones in the series sooner or later.

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