THE LADY FROM ZAGREB -- Philip Kerr's Marlowesque Berlin detective Bernie Gunther returns in this dark mystery set during the height of World War II
The Lady From Zagreb by Philip Kerr (2015, G.P. Putnam's Sons; 434 pages)
A beautiful actress, a rising star of the giant German film company UFA, now controlled by the Propaganda Ministry. The very clever, very dangerous Propaganda Minister—close confidant of Hitler, an ambitious schemer and flagrant libertine. And Bernie Gunther, former Berlin homicide bull, now forced to do favors for Joseph Goebbels at the Propaganda Minister’s command. This time, the favor is personal. And this time, nothing is what it seems. Set down amid the killing fields of Ustashe-controlled Croatia, Bernie finds himself in a world of mindless brutality where everyone has a hidden agenda. Perfect territory for a true cynic whose instinct is to trust no one.
The 10th installment in Kerr's Bernie Gunther mysteries finds Bernie reluctantly serving Nazi masters, constantly striving to walk the narrow (and dangerous) path between following outrageous orders while maintaining some vestige of personal integrity. Bernie is the closest thing you're going to find to Philip Marlowe outside of Raymond Chandler's L.A., and, in The Lady From Zagreb, Kerr embraces the Chandler comparisons fully, even having one character dreaming about writing a novel called The Lady in the Lake. This is Kerr at his best, and darkest (there are a couple of passages so brutal they are hard to read). A very satisfying entry in the series.
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