Greeks Bearing Gifts is not the best of the Bernie Gunther series

Greeks Bearing Gifts

In preparing to write this review, I learned that Philip Kerr, the author of the Bernie Gunther books had died last month at the age of 62. One more book is to be published this year or next, but perhaps Greeks Bearing Gifts is a fitting end to the series, since the last book will apparently focus on the Weimar Republic and Bernie’s younger years.

In this book, the intrepid detective from the Nazi years has assumed a false name and has traveled from Munich to Greece in 1957. He’s now working as an insurance adjustor, and of course, there’s a murder to solve in the course of his investigation into the sinking of a boat. It’s an incredibly complex plot, and I found myself getting tired of looking up literary allusions I didn’t understand.

The plot centers on a shipment of Nazi gold stolen from the Jews of Greece that we are first told is sunken in the ocean. We learn later that isn’t the case.

Bernie, who is now almost 60, also picks up a young admirer in her 30s, a fact that puzzles him almost to the point of paranoia. He’s also acquired a sidekick of sorts, Garlopis, a man who acknowledges he is a coward.

Both of the real life Nazi criminals Bernie seeks in this book essentially escape serious punishment, and we get the view at the end of the book that Bernie is about to hang up his hat, although he is still seeking atonement for the crimes of his Nazi past-masters.

I got an extreme amount of enjoyment from these books — this is the 13th in the Bernie Gunther series — but I would not recommend this book as one to start reading if you’ve never read Kerr before. Most of these books hold up on their own, but this is the first book that is not at least partially set in Nazi Germany. We lose something as a result of that.

Still, I am sorry to bid Kerr and Bernie Gunther good-bye. Learn more about Bernie here.

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