DAYTON, Ohio – Bernie Gunther is back. He has worn numerous hats during this long-running series by Philip Kerr, and in this latest book, “A Man Without Breath” (Marian Wood/Putnam, 465 pages, $26.95), he’s a war crimes investigator.
Gunther is German. In the 1930s he was a homicide detective in Berlin when the Nazis came to power. He has never been a member of the Nazi Party. As the years passed he managed to survive, just barely.
This is the ninth book in this series. It opens on March 1, 1943. The tide of battle has begun to turn. One month earlier the Soviet Red Army routed the once-invincible German Army at Stalingrad. The German occupiers along the Eastern Front are getting nervous. They realize that soon a vengeful Red Army will come sweeping through them.
The Germans make a shocking discovery in the Soviet region outside Smolensk. A wolf in the Katyn Forest was gnawing on what look to be human remains.
Bernie is assigned to go to Smolensk and find out who is actually buried at Katyn. What he uncovers is a trove of dark secrets. Kerr just keeps raising the ante with this series. And this is the best book yet.