Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
A Man Without Breath, like Kerr’s last Bernie Gunther novel, Prague Fatale, is set at a specific time and place, and in a similarly closed location. That last book had Reinhard Heydrich call on Gunther’s detective skills within a remote chateau.
Now Dr Goebbels has sent Bernie to somewhere even more distant and isolated: basically, a clearing in the woods of Russia, a long way from Berlin and fortunately a long way behind the lines. You will know the name: Katyn.
As winter has ended the German headquarters (headquarters always make sure they are a long way from the fighting) have noticed body parts being dug up from the thawing grounds by the local wolves. Goebbels has realised that if he can persuade the world that the corpses are the result of a massacre by Stalin’s men that he will have a propaganda weapon to separate the western allies from the Soviets. Unusually for Goebbels that means keeping the area forensically clean until an international commission can be convened, which is where Gunther, known as something of a clean pair of hands, comes in. Above ground, though, there are more corpses appearing, and these are among the Germans, while other people are disappearing, witnesses among them. As ever, Gunther is sent with one mission and finds himself taking on others even more overwhelming.
No one is clean, and I doubt that the Bernie Gunther who narrates his own story is clean, either, despite his protestations. Another of Philip Kerr’s excellent works.