Death of a Red Heroine is the debut novel by Qiu Xiaolong, a native of Shanghai, but currently living in St. Louis. The story is set in Shanghai in 1990, where Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau is confronted with a murder case that will be difficult to solve particularly because of its political ramifications. In fact, the novel is as much a novel of politics in China as much as it is a detective or mystery novel. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal named it as one of the top 5 political novels of all time.
March Violets, set in 1936 Nazi Germany, introduces Bernie Gunter, a former police detective who, disgruntled with the Nazi bureaucracy, resigned from his position and is now employed as a private detective. Kerr does a good job of capturing the viciousness, corruption and seediness of Nazi Germany. Gunther is an interesting character, but I felt at times that Kerr overdoes the hardened, wise-cracking detective routine. The plot moves briskly, but occasionally it lurches from from one plot twist to another, and the ending is slightly unconvincing. But Kerr has apparently had success with Bernie Gunther, and there are ten novels in the series, with an eleventh due in 2016. I might try the 2nd installment, The Pale Criminal.
Update: Philip Kerr died in 2018, and had written 12 books in the Bernie Gunther series.
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