Lead Review

  • Book: Metropolis
  • Location: Berlin
  • Author: Philip Kerr

Review Author: tripfiction



Metropolis is very firmly set in the Weimar Republic of 1928 Berlin. The Great War is ten years past, and Hitler and the Nazi movement are just beginning to stir. Anti Semites are beginning to find their voice. Berlin is a city of corruption and debauchery.

And there are murders on the street. Prostitutes and war cripples are being killed… The chantes are ladies without work – they looked to be prostitutes (at least part time ones…) after the war when the men returned and took all the jobs there were. A fair number are ‘respectable’ middle class ladies… The klutz are disabled war veterans who push themselves round the streets in homemade disability carts, begging for a living. Someone (or maybe more than one person) is killing them – the women are knifed and then scalped, the men are shot through the head. The perpetrator (or perpetrators) writes to the newspapers saying that he is clearing the vermin from the streets with the intention of again making Berlin a place where honest citizens can walk without being exposed to such trash.

Bernie Gunther is new to the police murder squad in Berlin. He is charged with finding out what is going on – and stopping it. In his investigation he visits many of the low life haunts of Berlin at the time. He also (no choice offered…) works alongside the boss of one the most notorious underworld gangs… whose daughter was one of the murdered chantes.

Metropolis is the thirteenth (and last) of the Bernie Gunther books written by Philip Kerr. It was completed just before he died in March 2018. It does, though, take the series back to its very beginning. In Metropolis we see Bernie at the very start of his career – as a rookie detective in Berlin.

What is especially great about Metropolis is that, as well as being a quite excellent and thought through thriller, it totally captures the decadent atmosphere of 1928 Berlin. A lot of the locations that Bernie visits, and a lot of the people he works with and meets, are real. The blurb at the beginning of the book (I looked because I was confused) states that ‘Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously’. The use of real people in ‘what might have been’ situations works really well. You feel you gain an insight into the thinking of these who went on the be key players in the Nazi movement.

An excellent, and sadly final, addition to the Bernie Gunther series.

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