Summary and book reviews of A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr

A Quiet Flame

By Philip Kerr

A Quiet Flame
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Mar 2009,
    400 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2010,
    416 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Joanne Collings

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Book Summary

A Quiet Flame opens in 1950. Falsely fingered a war criminal, Bernie Gunther has booked passage to Buenos Aires, lured, like the Nazis whose company he has always despised, by promises of a new life and a clean passport from the Perón government. But Bernie doesn't have the luxury of settling into his new home and lying low. He is soon pressured by the local police into taking on a case in which a girl has turned up dead, gruesomely mutilated, and another-the daughter of a wealthy German banker-has gone missing. Both crimes seem to connect to an unsolved case Bernie worked on back in Berlin in 1932. It's not so far-fetched that the cases might be linked: after all, the scum of the earth has been washing up on Argentine shores-state-licensed murderers and torturers-so why couldn't a serial killer be among them?

But Argentina, just like Germany, holds terrible secrets within its corrupt halls of power. When beautiful Anna Yagubsky seeks Gunther out, desperate for help, to find out what happened to her Jewish aunt and uncle who have disappeared, he is drawn into a horror story that rivals everything he has tried so hard to leave behind half a world away.

BUENOS AIRES, 1950

The boat was the SS Giovanni, which seemed only appropriate given the fact that at least three of its passengers, including myself, had been in the SS. It was a medium-sized boat with two funnels, a view of the sea, a well-stocked bar, and an Italian restaurant. This was fine if you liked Italian food, but after four weeks at sea at eight knots, all the way from Genoa, I didn’t like it and I wasn’t sad to get

off. Either I’m not much of a sailor or there was something else wrong with me other than the company I was keeping these days.

We steamed into the port of Buenos Aires along the gray River Plate, and this gave me and my two fellow travelers a chance to reflect upon the proud history of our invincible German navy. Somewhere at the bottom of the river, near Montevideo, lay the wreck of the Graf Spee, a pocket battleship that had been invincibly scuttled by its commander in December 1939, to prevent it from falling into the ...

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Nazi Germany and Argentina under the Perons are places perhaps best visited from the safety of an armchair, but Kerr never stints on atmosphere and his books are a kind of immersion into place and time that can be hard to shake off. He's both an excellent novelist and gifted architect of mysteries and his dialogue is first-rate. As Colonel Montalban, Bernie's police boss says, "'To be a great detective one must also be a protagonist. A dynamic sort of character who makes things happen just by being himself. I think you are this kind of person, Gunther.'"

Montalban's right and readers are all the richer for it.   (Reviewed by Joanne Collings).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Warts and all - Kerr makes little attempt to hide them-Bernie Gunther ... remains endearing, entertaining and eminently forgivable.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Kerr, who's demonstrated his versatility with high-quality entries in other genres, cleverly and plausibly grafts history onto a fast-paced thriller plot.

Libary Journal

Fans of the earlier series titles will love the extended sections that re-create the grimly decadent atmosphere of the last days of the Weimar Republic. Highly recommended.

The Scotsman - Allan Massie

[A]n accomplished, smoothly professional mystery, but lacks something of the sharp authenticity of those early Gunther books ... The novel is enjoyable enough, good-quality airport fiction. But that's all it is, which is sad, because the early Bernie Gunther novels were so much more than that.

Euro Crime - Norman Price

A Quiet Flame is more than a crime fiction book and makes a good case for crime fiction as an educational tool as well as mere entertainment. I highly recommend this excellent book especially if you want to learn about events a lot of people would like to forget, or even deny happened.

The Telegraph - Jake Kerridge

[A] bleak tale, but a funny and thrilling one; at times I wondered if I should be enjoying a novel about genocide and paedophilia quite so much. In Bernie Gunther, Kerr has created a plum example of that irresistible folk hero, the detective who is the only honourable man in a wicked world.

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To Read or Not To Read in Series Order

When I was a teenager, my mother gave me some advice which I almost immediately ignored. We were both avid readers who preferred reading to talking and most of our limited conversation was about what we were reading.

She had enjoyed English novelist Norah Lofts's trilogy about the history of a house and the stories of the people who had lived in it over a century. "Make sure," she said," to start with the first book." But when I went to the library, it was out, so I started with the second, then went back to the first. Although I still enjoyed the books, reading the middle before the beginning and then jumping to the end gave me a kind of Alice in Wonderland sense of disjointedness...

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