A Man Without Breath: Book summary and reviews of A Man Without Breath by Philip Kerr

A Man Without Breath

A Bernie Gunther Novel

by Philip Kerr

A Man Without Breath by Philip Kerr
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2013
    480 pages
    Genre: Mysteries

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Book Summary

Berlin, March, 1943.

A month has passed since the stunning defeat at Stalingrad. Though Hitler insists Germany is winning the war, commanders on the ground know better. Morale is low, discipline at risk. Now word has reached Berlin of a Red massacre of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk. If true, the message it would send to the troops is clear: Fight on or risk certain death. For once, both the Wehrmacht and Propaganda Minister Goebbels want the same thing: irrefutable evidence of this Russian atrocity. To the Wehrmacht, such proof will soften the reality of its own war crimes in the eyes of the victors. For Goebbels, such proof could turn the tide of war by destroying the Alliance, cutting Russia off from its western supply lines.

Both parties agree that the ensuing investigation must be overseen by a professional trained in sifting evidence and interrogating witnesses. Anything that smells of incompetence or tampering will defeat their purposes. And so Bernie Gunther is dispatched to Smolensk, where truth is as much a victim of war as those poor dead Polish officers.

Smolensk, March, 1943.

Army Group Center is an enclave of Prussian aristocrats who have owned the Wehrmacht almost as long as they've owned their baronial estates, an officer class whose families have been intermarrying for generations. The wisecracking, rough-edged Gunther is not a good fit. He is, after all, a Berlin bull. But he has a far bigger concern than sharp elbows and supercilious stares, for somewhere in this mix is a cunning and savage killer who has left a trail of bloody victims.

This is no psycho case. This is a man with motive enough to kill and skills enough to leave no trace of himself. Bad luck that in this war zone, such skills are two-a-penny. Somehow Bernie must put a face to this killer before he puts an end to Bernie.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Kerr makes everything look easy, from blending history with a clever and intricate whodunit plot to powerful descriptions of cruelty." - Publishers Weekly

"Kerr masterfully explores morality's shadowy gray edge." - Kirkus

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Reader Reviews

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JeanT

History and Mystery!
I really enjoyed this book. I wasn't sure what to expect with the theme of a German policeman investigating murders in Nazi Germany in 1943. The author seemed to have done a great deal of historical research, using an actual atrocity as the basis for the novel. It provided a reminder that not all Germans were Nazis or supporters of Hitler and the consequences, potential or actualized, for choosing that stance. I really enjoyed learning more about this period of history from this perspective. As a lover of the mystery genre, I felt the mystery element more than held its own with historical theme. Would definitely recommend this book to mystery and historical fiction lovers.

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Author Information

Philip Kerr Author Biography

Philip Kerr was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and studied at the University of Birmingham. Following university he worked as a copywriter at a number of advertising agencies, during which time he wrote no advertising slogans of any note. He spent most of his time in advertising researching an idea he had for a novel.

His first book in the Bernie Gunther series, March Violets, was published in 1989. He has written for the Sunday Times, Evening Standard and the New Statesman. In addition to at least eleven books for adults including the Bernie Gunther series, he is also the author of the Children of the Lamp series which he writes under the name P.B. Kerr.

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