A Quiet Flame

This noir thriller (413 pages) was published in March of 2009 by Marian Wood Books/Putnam. The book takes you to 1950 Buenos Aires and 1932 Berlin. Melissa read A Quiet Flame and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

amazon
buy
bookshop.org
buy

Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

rule

A Quiet Flame

A Bernie Gunther Novel

Philip Kerr

If you like WWII stories, snappy dialogue, and bad guys getting their well-deserved comeuppance — mashed up with fascinating history that drives a page-turning plot — this is the book for you.

This hard-boiled noir thriller is set in 1950 Buenos Aires with flashbacks to 1932 Berlin, and it stars one of the all-time great antiheroes: Bernie Gunther. He’s a decent man in dire circumstances. He falls in love with the wrong girl on the regular. And he does nothing to hide his contempt for Nazis, even when that POV puts him in mortal danger. As a police detective in Berlin, and later as a private eye, he has an exemplary close rate on his cases — and a long record of ticking off the wrong people.

The series spans the years leading up to WWII, the war, and the post-war period; no need to read them in order. In this installment, Bernie has been falsely identified as a war criminal, so he’s taking advantage of the open arms offered by Argentina. He’s off to start a new life on the other side of the Atlantic.

Although he’s traveled under a false identity, it’s not long before the local police realize they have a star detective in their midst. Bernie is pressured into investigating two cases — a gruesome murder and a kidnapping — that seem to be connected to one of his unsolved files from Berlin in 1932.

In real life, Argentina was officially neutral during the war but kept close ties to Germany because its high population of German immigrants. After the war, President Juan Perón secretly set up what are called ‘ratlines’ to smuggle high-ranking Nazis out of Europe.

As Bernie investigates the new cases and revisits his memories of the old one, he gets dangerously close to the president. His suspect pool is a who’s who of Nazis in hiding, including Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death who experimented on prisoners in the Auschwitz death camp, and Adolf Eichmann, one of the organizers of the Holocaust.

This story is chilling and suspenseful with a hint of doomed romance — Bernie being Bernie, there must be heartbreak. Terrible truths are revealed, justice is meted out, and Bernie carries on, although with new scars and a darker shade of jaded.

Buenos Aires looked and smelled like any European capital city before the war. As we drove through the busy streets, I wound down the window and took a deep, euphoric breath of exhaust fumes, cigar smoke, coffee, expensive cologne, cooked meat, fresh fruit, flowers, and money. It was like returning to earth after a journey into space. Germany, with its rationing and war damage and guilt and Allied tribunals, seemed a million miles away. In Buenos Aires there was lots of traffic because there was lots of petrol. The carefree people were well dressed and well fed, because the shops were full of clothes and food. Far from being a remote backwater, Buenos Aires was almost a Belle Époque throwback. Almost. — Philip Kerr

sharing is caring!

Wanna help us spread the word? If you like this page, please share with your friends.

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter

Join our Substack to get our FREE newsletter with podcast updates and behind-the-scenes info join in fun chats about books and travel.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
Sign up for our free Substack!
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.