The Lady from Zagreb by Phillip Kerr, review by Todd Robins
Of the mystery writers currently working on series characters, Phillip Kerr, with his Bernie Gunther detective operating in World War II era Nazi Germany, is right at the top of my list of favorites.
Key features that bring me back to the series—on abundant display in the recently published The Lady from Zagreb—include the nuanced array of Nazi officers (straight out of history) with whom Gunther must cope, even though these same dangerous characters have it on file that the detective is no fan of the regime, along with Gunther’s intelligent, droll, atmospheric depiction of his world. Nearly every sentence of The Lady from Zagreb drips with some level of charisma, that dose of magic that sets a mystery writer apart from the pack.
There are two ways to set about it when reading the new book. The first is to notice that Gunther appears to be taking his time, beginning his tale before a body has been found and, further, that a series of seemingly unrelated Nazi and Swiss officers are pulling him this way and that. The tendency, in this case, is to become impatient.
But I recommend settling down with the first-rate voice and atmosphere to allow the story to develop. Gunther is too clever of a cat to write about something for no reason. The Swiss officers, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, the odyssey through the Serb-Croatian conflict, the lady from Zagreb (and what a lady she is!)—all of these narrative strands are of a piece. Enjoy the ride with the expectation to happen upon subtle twists of plot.
Kerr mentions in the acknowledgements that his character will return in 2016, a timely bit of marketing to the reader newly finished with The Lady from Zagreb.