Readers may have met Bernie Gunter in Philip Kerr’s mystery novels set in Germany during World War II. He was a sympathetically presented Berlin policeman. Gunter was opposed to the Nazis, but was able to continue his profession as a homicide detective and private detective in several exciting adventures. In A Quiet Flame, he has come to Argentina in 1950. Falsely accused as a war criminal, he has escaped under the name of Dr. Carolos Hauser, a real war criminal. At a meeting with Juan Peron, Argentinean president, he admits that he is not a doctor. At the same meeting, however, is Colonel Montalban, secret police head. He remembers Gunter from a pre-war trip and asks for his help in a murder investigation.
The case is like one that Gunter was investigating in 1932. The story continues in alternating accounts of what is happening in Argentina and what happened in 1932. In addition, in the 1950 setting, a young girl Fabienne has disappeared. She is the daughter of a personal friend of the Perons.
Having little choice and hopeful of finally settling the 1932 case, Gunter begins a dangerous double game. The two current cases seem related, and there are the similarities between the old and new murders. Adding to the danger, Gunter falls for a beautiful and resourceful Jewish girl searching for lost relatives.
The Argentina of the time was welcoming Nazis from defeated Germany, sharing some of their attitudes, including fierce anti- Semitism. Gunter and Anna search together for clues and for her family members. Meanwhile, another motivation for Gunter is the heart operation that he has been promised if he stays in Argentina and cooperates.
Through various breath-stopping incidents, Gunter meets again an old Berlin colleague and strongly suspects that his quarry is among the Nazi expatriates who are unfortunately close to power in their new country.
A Quiet Flame is good crime fiction, enhanced by historical detail. It is available at the Mary Willis Library.