Monday, December 26, 2016


This is the tenth novel in Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series of detective novels.  It's the first Philip Kerr novel I've read.

The thing which immediately distinguishes this series from just another "hard boiled" detective series (the jacket proudly proclaims that "Philip Kerr is the only bona fide heir to Raymond Chandler") is the setting of the books in Nazi Germany.

Bernie Gunther used to be a real police detective, now he's just another German trying to survive World War II.  The police have now become a part of the SS, and Bernie is on special assignment for the Nazi Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels.   There is a beautiful actress, Dalia Dresner, that Herr Goebbels has the hots for.  She wants to know whether or not her father in Croatia is still alive and Goebbels wants her for his movies and his bed.

Philip Kerr

Bernie has a real tendency to leave a body trail behind him.  Bernie also likes beautiful women and they like him.  A recipe for a ripping good yarn and a painless history lesson.  As an SS officer in the Third Reich, Bernie has learned that ordinary murders don't mean much when nations are engaged in genocide.  Written in the first person "hard boiled" style, Kerr is skilled in letting his German Sam Spade tell the tale.

It did feel to me like the novel was somewhat padded and overlong.  If  it was about two hundred pages shorter, it would have been a five star novel.  As it is, the Bad Catholic gives it three and a half Sherlock Holmes hats.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Julian Fellowes' Past Imperfect

Damian Baxter is a fabulously wealthy late middle aged businessman who has a problem.  Damian is dying of cancer and wants to leave all of his money to his illegitimate child that he fathered as a young adult back in the swinging sixties.  All Damian has to go on is a letter written to him by the mother telling Damian that "he ruined her life."  The other problem is that Damian doesn't know who among the bevy of beauties that he bedded back then is the mother of his child.

After not hearing from each other for decades because of an embarrassing episode at a house party in Portugal, which we are kept in suspense about until the very end of the novel, and which really is not nearly as shocking as the build up leads the reader to believe that it will be,  Damian contacts the un-named narrator, who has had a moderately successful career as a novelist.  The narrator, "Fellowes," hates Damian but cannot resist going to see him.  "Fellowes" also cannot resist carrying out Damien's last request to find the mother of Damian's child and seeing that he or she inherits all of Damien's fabulous wealth.

The book goes back and forth between the present (the book was first published in 2008) and the late 1960s.  The book has all the inside scoop on the British upper classes that you would expect from the creator of Downton Abbey.  The novel chronicles one of the last debutante seasons in the late sixties when the parents of the aristocracy and the rich paraded their daughters from one dance and party to another to find an appropriate husband.

Just like in real life, what we want to become in our youth is rarely what really happens to us.  Past Imperfect is a well written and entertaining soap opera.  And it's educational.  You may learn how to dress for dinner if you're ever invited to an English country house or how to appropriately address the daughter of an Earl.  Five out of five.

Lord Julian Fellowes