A review of the novel “Prague Fatale” by Philip Kerr

Kerr – who died in March 2018 – was a writer of both adult fiction and non-fiction who is known for the Bernie Gunther series of historical thrillers set in Germany and elsewhere during the 1930s, the Second World War and the Cold War. “Prague Fatale” is the eighth novel in the Gunther series and the 14th will be published posthumously next year (2019).

I don’t normally read thrillers but someone bought me this one as a birthday present, presumably because of my interest in all things Czech for family reasons. The action takes place in the Autumn of 1941 and is located, partly in Berlin and mainly in Prague. The narrator is Bernhard Gunther, a 43 year old widower who is an officer in the SD, the intelligence wing of the SS, in Nazi Germany. In classic Agatha Christie style, he is summoned to a stately home on the outskirts of the Czech capital to investigate a strange murder for which there are many plausible suspects.

What makes this very readable, dialogue-heavy, carefully-plotted story so compelling is that so many of the characters were actually historical figures and there are allusions to many historical events. The leading real-life character is Reinhard Heydrich who, some months later, was assassinated by Czech and Slovak parachutists. At times, I felt that Gunther’s conversations with men like Heydrich almost humanised them but, if one can overlook this conceit, this is a splendid read.


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