The Other Side of Silence is the 11th novel in Philip Kerr‘s bestselling series of detective stories featuring Bernie Gunther. (A 12th is forthcoming as I write.) However, unlike the books that precede it in the series, this suspenseful and well-crafted tale is primarily a post-war spy story. MI6, the East German Stasi, and the Soviet NKVD are all involved. For the most part, the previous 10 books have centered on crimes committed in Nazi Germany during the 1930s and in Nazi-occupied territory during World War II.
The action in The Other Side of Silence takes place in 1956 on the French Riviera, where former Berlin homicide detective Bernie Gunther is working as the concierge at a luxury hotel under an assumed name. The year 1956 is an interesting and obviously deliberate choice. That was the eventful year when Britain and France went to war against Egypt after Gamal Abdel Nasser seized the Suez Canal. Almost simultaneously, the USSR squelched the Hungarian Revolution. And the wedding of Monaco’s Prince Rainier and Hollywood star Grace Kelly is about to take place nearby. These events in the background anchor and help generate the urgency of the tale.
The Other Side of Silence (Bernie Gunther #11) by Philip Kerr @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Like every one of the novels that precede it in the Bernie Gunther series, The Other Side of Silence is grounded in history. Real-world personalities play central roles in the story: the 82-year-old W. Somerset Maugham, then the world’s most famous and wealthiest author; the British Soviet spies, Guy Burgess and Donald MacLean; former Nazi spymaster Markus Wolf, number two in the Stasi; Sir John Sinclair, then Director General of MI6; and Roger Hollis, who became Director General of MI5 during the period depicted in the novel. Maugham himself was for many years a British spymaster, so this story is chock full of espionage agents.
As always, Bernie stumbles into a beautiful woman, with whom he (predictably) falls hopelessly in love. Her name is Anne French. She’s a writer who for some unstated reason is desperately eager to meet Somerset Maugham. She’s convinced that Bernie can find a way to introduce them. Bernie calculates that he might be able to wangle an invitation if he teaches her to play bridge. Though Bernie is a reasonably skilled amateur player, Maugham is fanatical about bridge and supremely skilled at it. Naturally, Bernie’s maneuvering to pull this off is merely the prelude to a complex story that brings him face to face with a mass murderer with whom he had a run-in in 1937. It also involves him with many of the aforementioned spies. The Other Side of Silence is another thrilling tale in the saga of Bernie Gunther.
For additional reading
For links to reviews of the whole series, go to Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther novels.
My post 19 nonfiction books that illuminate the World War II era may also interest you.
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- Top 10 mystery and thriller series;
- 20 excellent standalone mysteries and thrillers; and
- 20 outstanding detective series from around the world.
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