Sometimes an author strikes lucky and invents a character which is utterly compelling and becomes the motif of their entire career. Lee Child’s Reacher, Ian Rankin’s Rebus are excellent examples. The reader looks forward to the next Reacher novel almost as though they have a relationship with him. So it was with Kerr’s Bernie Gunther. We enjoyed his career in Weimar Germany, the compromises with the Nazi’s, his relationship with Heydrich, his post-war career as an SS man on the run. Getting old but still being wily, tough and grotesquely wonderful.
Kerr’ history was empathetic. It used history to support brilliant writing so where does this leave Hitler’s Peace? Kerr uses his historical feel to good effect but unfortunately he’s trying to write counter-factual history: What If history. Sometimes it reads like a clever student who’s studied hard and was ‘jolly well going to use the whole lot’ regardless of whether there was any point or not.
Yes I was disappointed. Hitler’s Peace is a good book but my expectations were sky high.
* There are two dates as this edition has an afterword obituary for Kerr by Howard Jacobson