Publishing is like most industries: if your competitors have a successful product, copy it. In 1989 Philip Kerr, a copywriter at Saatchi and Saatchi, wrote The March Violets set in Nazi Germany in the thirties and introduced to us the cop Bernie Gunther. Gunther was like Raymond Chandler’s creation Philip Marlowe: a loner, a loser but with a strong moral compass and a great detective. He was an unlikely hero but Philip Kerr has gone on to write 14 more, the latest set in the South Of France in the fifties. Apart from a likeable detective, Kerr researches into the murkiness of Nazi Germany and senior Nazis like Joseph Geobbels regularly appear.
It spawned other writers. James Macmanus has written about the envoy Harry Hopkins and the Nazi-run bordello in Berlin in Midnight in Berlin. Through the Amazon feature “If you liked x, you will also like y” I was introduced to Sam Eastland, being the pen mane of Paul Wilkins. Eastland’ s detective is a Finnish detective Inspector Pekkala who served under the Tsar and now Stalin. His personality is less accessible than Gunther.’s In Berlin Red he is commissioned to recover an agent from Berlin who happens to be his wife and is the chauffeur of Himmler’s number two. The back story is the V2 rocket and a deadly targeting mechanism called Diamond Stream. The story is well-plotted with a tense denouement with the Nazi’s leading policeman Hungady and Pekkala in a chase as to who will get to the agent first in a city which the Russians are bombarding and about to destroy. Eastman like Kerr has a keen eye for detail. Hitler, Himmler and Stalin all appear in the novel.
Some may dismiss thus a formulaic pulp novel but not me. I don’t lightly dismiss a novelist who can tell a story and does his homework. This is the seventh of the Pekkala series and my first. I shall certainly read and review others.