cover image A Man Without Breath: 
A Bernie Gunther Novel

A Man Without Breath: A Bernie Gunther Novel

Philip Kerr. Putnam, $26.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-399-16079-0

Set in the spring of 1943, Kerr’s captivating ninth Bernie Gunther novel (after 2011’s Prague Fatale) takes Gunther—now attached to the Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau—from Berlin to Smolensk, to investigate mass graves of Polish officers discovered in the nearby Katyn forest. Josef Goebbels, seeking a propaganda coup after Germany’s Stalingrad defeat, is keen to pin the atrocity on the Soviets. The tormented honest cop also gets on the trail of a killer targeting German soldiers, even as he finds himself in an anomalous moral position (“a situation in which you can have an army corporal hanged for the rape and murder of a Russian peasant girl in one village that’s only a few miles from another village where an SS special action group has just murdered twenty-five thousand men, women and children”). Kerr makes everything look easy, from blending history with a clever and intricate whodunit plot to powerful descriptions of cruelty. Agent: Caradoc King, A.P. Watt (U.K.). (Apr.)