Some books are never meant to be happy. Although in a Crime novel the outcome, most of the time, provides a solution to a crime, and brings a criminal to justice, but often it also leaves the reader with sadness. Either connected to a character, or to the general atmosphere created by the book. A QUIET FLAME by Phillip Kerr left me sad, and on both the counts of character and atmosphere. The book dealt with a theme which was dark from the very beginning. A case involving disappearance of missing girls is dark enough, but when this whole nasty business is coupled with a the Nazi pogrom of massacring Jews, and the infamous but never acknowledged Directive 11 as promoted by Juan Peron of Argentina the book becomes a ride, which not makes the reader uneasy but leaves him with a sadness. At least it left me sad.
But, if judged from a POV of a crime novel, this book can be called mediocre at its best. The atmosphere was electric, the way Kerr jumped between Berlin and Buenos Aires was impressive. The fear, the uncertainty and the hatred portrayed by his words that were present during the 1930s, as the Nazis are on the verge of gaining power was very potent. But sadly, although these may add to the general feeling of a crime novel but it can never substitute the real plot. If the plot is shallow then no amount of Nazi, Peron or Argentina can save the book and that’s what happened for me with this book. Bernie Gunther as a protagonist had the right mix of skepticism and quick wit, but even he with his smart mouth wasn’t good enough to salvage the plot.
The plot when it started had great expectations oozing from it. It had the quality of a plot which starts with a bizarre crime and ends with a solution and motive equally bizarre and believable. But here, somewhere in between numerous jumps between periods, and more than enough characters, with one overlapping the other the plot lost its fizz. And the ending, or the part of it when it arrived almost went past me, before I realised that I had just read one solution to one of the subplots. And then the act of joining one subplot to the other and connecting the solutions to both through a single character was once again equally bad. It spoke of huge amount of coincidence. And I don’t like much coincidence in my crime novels.
On its own this book would get 2 stars out of 5. But, as I said the side dishes of atmosphere and history was very tasty, on an average I upped my rating to a 3 star.