What is a summary of Philip Kerr's "Berlin Noir trilogy"?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

British author Philip Kerr's "Berlin Noir trilogy" is set in Nazi Germany and features Bernhard Gunther, a private investigator who was once a police officer. The trilogy comprises the titles March Violets, The Pale Criminal, and A German Requiem.

March Violets is set in Berlin in 1936 as the city prepares to host the Summer Olympic Games, three years after the rise of the Nazi Party, with Hitler established as Chancellor of Germany. In preparation, city workers busily take down anti-Semitic signs in an effort to make the city look more peaceful and attractive to foreign spectators. Meanwhile, Gunther is hired by a millionaire German industrialist named Hermann Six to investigate the murders of his daughter Grete and her husband Paul Pfarr in their own home, as well as to investigate the loss of a valuable necklace that was stolen from Six's safe. Paul Pfarr had been a lawyer for the Department of the Interior, working on an important investigation at the time of the murders. Gunther's investigation exposes corruption in the Nazi regime as its members battle for power. He also finds documents exposing Six of corruption and fraud in the Labour Union, the same corruption and fraud Pfarr had been investigating at the time of his and his wife's deaths.  

The Pale Criminal is set at the start of World War II, just as Germany begins taking over Austria and invading Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939 respectively. Private investigator Gunther has taken on a partner named Bruno Stahlecker, also previously a police officer who had to quit the force due to anti-Nazi Party sentiments. Gunther and Stahlecker are called to clandestinely meet Berlin's Chief of Criminal Police, Arthur Nebe, who also has anti-Nazi sentiments. Nebe proposes Gunther rejoin the police force in a plan to overthrow the Nazis. Meanwhile, Gunther and Stahlecker investigate the blackmailing of the homosexual son of Frau Lange, a financially successful publisher. The blackmailing case leads them to a serial murder case, and the cases prove to be connected and point to the son being involved with individuals wanting to take control of the government and begin rounding up Jews. Though his investigations do some good, Gunther is ultimately unhappy with the results because he sees the government as being far too drenched in corruption to be able to purge the government enough.

A German Requiem is set in Berlin after World War II during Allied occupation and the start of the Cold War. The Soviet Union occupies Eastern Berlin, and Berliners increasingly fear the Soviet Union cutting Eastern Berlin off from Western Berlin. Gunther has gotten married to Kirsten, a waitress, and also just survived fighting during the war in the Russian front and being captured as a prisoner of war. Gunther has been hired to work a case in Vienna finding evidence to acquit a former colleague of Gunther's from the police force, who has been charged with murdering Linden, an American army captain. His investigation leads him to discover a group of Nazi war criminals previously believed to have committed suicide, but due to a power struggle between the occupying Americans and the occupying Russians, neither government is willing to hunt down the criminals. The series ends with Gunther and his wife seeking refuge in Vienna.

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