A Book Spy Review: ‘Greeks Bearing Gifts’ by Philip Kerr

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Greeks bearing giftsGerman Detective Bernie Gunther returns for his 13th adventure, set in 1957, in Philip Kerr’s latest novel, Greeks Bearing Gifts

No longer a cop, Bernie takes his decades of experience and applies it towards his new career, working with an insurance company — the latest in a revolving door of odd jobs, a list that included receiving employment from a mortician. 

Now, his new position as claims adjuster sends him to Athens to investigate the sinking of a ship called the Doris, which allegedly caught on fire while looking for Greek artifacts. The ship’s owner, Siegfried Witzel, a former member of the Wehrmacht Navy and an experienced diver, speaks with Bernie. It turns out that the ship once belonged to a Greek Jew deported to Auschwitz, and Bernie begins to wonder if the sinking was somehow intentional. His theory is hammered home when Witzel is later found dead, shot through each eyeball. 

On one hand, Witzel’s death means that Bernie’s new employer is off the hook on the insurance claim, which means his job is theoretically done. On the other hand, Bernie Gunther isn’t the type of man to walk away from a murder, and it doesn’t take long for him to start poking around looking for answers. The case takes a turn, though, when a Greek cop traces the gruesome style of execution back to a killer who made a name for himself in World War II. Bernie is forced to give the Greek a hand. . . and Kerr has more than a few surprises planted for Gunther and readers along the way.  

Tragically, New York Times bestselling author Philip Kerr passed away at the age of 62, just eight days before Greeks Bearing Gifts hit bookstores. There’s no word yet about the future of Bernie Gunther, or if Kerr was working on another manuscript at the time of his death. Hopefully, this won’t be the end of Gunther, who seems to have a new career trajectory by the story’s end. With the recent run of other authors continuing a late writer’s successful franchise (Kyle Mills for Vince Flynn, Mark Greaney for Tom Clancy, Ace Atkins and Reed Ferrell Coleman for Robert B. Parker, etc.) there’s always a chance that someone else will pick up the mantle and continue Bernie’s story. But if this is the final book in the series, Kerr gives readers one last unputdownable ride. 

Greeks Bearing Gifts is masterfully written and full of suspense, and the amount of details that Kerr packed into his latest novel is incredible. . . readers will feel like they’re back in 1957 with Bernie Gunther, and more than a few fans will find themselves savoring every page while hoping the story never comes to an end. 

Book Details

Author: Philip Kerr
Series: Bernie Gunther #13
Pages: 528 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 039917706X
Publisher: Marian Wood Books/Putnam
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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