The object of my 12 in 12 Challenge is to address the number of physical books I have in my to-be-read pile by choosing a different theme each month and reading 12 books which fall into that category from the huge number I have waiting to be read. In February I am reading books set in different countries around the world and book 4 is set in Germany – I did, however, read this one on my Kindle (I do have a large number of books also waiting to be read electronically but they don’t take up the same space as the physical books so I am not addressing that issue this year).
The book I read is March Violets by Philip Kerr. It is set in Germany in 1936 and is a crime novel. The hero is Bernie Gunther who is a private detective and who is asked to investigate the death of a young couple and the disappearance of some gems. The hero is very much in the tradition of Philip Marlowe so the book is full of witticisms and wry humour but there is nothing funny at all about the setting.
The author makes the environment and atmosphere of a country very much in the early grip of fascism the point of the story. Through Gunther’s investigations we are shown what it must have been like to live at that time as fear began to envelope the country and the worst of the Nazi regime was established. The actual plot is not particularly complex but what makes the book original is the way in which it is played out in a country where it is no longer permissible or sensible to be different or speak out in any way. Gunther is not complicit directly in what is happening but he doesn’t object to it for fear of what will happen, and on the one occasion when he tries to make a difference he suffers for it.
I thought that this book was clever and compelling reading. It is the first in a series and I shall definitely read the others. It is a bit of a pity that most of the books I have ever read about Germany are about the two World Wars because obviously there is much more to the country than those events but there does seem to be fascination with the era in books published recently. I recommend this one though.