Winnie the Pooh is not the only character that got his nose caught in the honey jar. Take the background story of Bernie Gunther - before the war started, he was a highly respected homicide investigator in Berlin. Once the Nazis took control, Bernie had to swallow his pride and political beliefs in order to survive. His comfort level went from a possible 10 to well below zero.
Gunther's goal became to stay below the radar of the maniacal regime that was slowly destroying his world. He was forced to wear a uniform and become part of the military machine. He went from being the Berlin Bull to the Wehrmacht Wimp.
In March of 1943, the Wehrmacht High Command sends their prized criminal investigator to Smolensk to verify if thousands of Polish officers were executed and buried in a frozen field. Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, smells a possible public relations coup. If Goebbels can get proof that the Russians mass-murdered thousands of defenseless enemy officers, the world's spotlight, fixed on the Nazi nation's atrocities, will dim drastically.
The last thing that Gunther wants is to be anywhere near the spotlight. He has positioned himself well offstage and only wants his world back - as it once was. When he lands in Smolensk, no one is happy to see him...not the Germans in command of the invasion force, nor the Russians aiding them. Even the Gestapo resents an "outsider" being assigned to investigate a matter that appears to have no major consequence in the Fatherland conquering Mother Russia.
Resentment leads to murder and cover-up. Gunther is forced to make some difficult decisions to remain breathing; however, he finds time to fall hopelessly in love with one of the forensic team sent to aid his investigation. . .but even that small prize has its steep price tag.
Philip Kerr has written several books in this series. It is not important to read them in order, since the outcome of WWII is well documented. The writing is rich and the characters are complex. If historical fiction is what you are looking for and you haven't tried Kerr yet, it is well worth the experience.
Looking for a new author? Tony Schumacher's first book, The Darkest Hour, is one of the most impressive first-time author's novels that I read all year.
The setting is London, 1946. The war is over. Unfortunately, the Germans won. John Henry Rossett was crowned by his king as "The British Lion" for his heroics during the war. He's a broken police detective with a tragic past. Rossett lost his wife and son to a terrorist bombing during the war. He's hired by the occupying forces to hunt Jews, place them on trains, and send them to France. What happens to his captives is not his concern.
What is concerning is that Rossett's no better than a machine . . . a tool. He does only what he's told. He has no idea that he's being used for SS propaganda by his country's sworn enemy. What's worse is that Rossett could care less. It doesn't matter that he has no respect from his fellow Englanders. He has even less from the puppet masters that pull his strings. He's dead inside.
Then one day, for no apparent reason, Rossett rises from the dead. He finds a young Jewish boy hidden in an apartment wall and slowly starts his path to redemption.
I couldn't put this book down. It's the fastest 400-page read for me in a long time; the beginning of a series that will rival Philip Kerr, has been born.
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