Philip. A Quiet Flame: A Bernie Gunther Novel. Marian
Wood: Putnam. March 2009. c.400p. ISBN 978-0-399-15530-7. $26.95.
British novelist Kerr’s fifth Bernie Gunther thriller finds the German private detective in 1950 Argentina, where he has fled with other “Old Comrades” after his identity was compromised (see The One From the Other). Bernie’s past as a police officer involuntarily absorbed into the SS continues to dog his heels. Recognized by Colonel Montalbán of Juan Perón’s secret police, he is forced into investigating an apparent lust murder and the disappearance of a wealthy young girl. The first case has eerie similarities to an unsolved homicide that Bernie investigated in Berlin in 1932; the second ties in with an attempt to seize Nazi plunder hidden in Swiss banks. But the situation becomes complicated as the reluctant detective risks his life to track down and interrogate several ex-Nazis involved in nefarious deeds. Authentic period detail, biting wit, sparkling metaphors, and an engaging character whose moral ambiguity places him in perilous situations make this a read to savor. 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 for public libraries.