By Philip Kerr

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You were going to say that the Soviet Union can hardly be called a democracy. But if you did, the Comrade Chairman might hear you and send terrible men like me to kidnap you and your wife. ‘Of course we both know that the only people making a living in this city now are the prostitutes, the black-marketeers and the spies. There will always be prostitutes, and the black-marketeers will last only for as long as the German currency remains unreformed. That leaves spying. That’s the new profession to be in, Herr Gunther.

Things are rather fickle on your side of the fence. I know a man who came back from the war to find Communist Party officials living in his house — officials for whom nothing was simpler than to pull a few strings in order to ensure his committal to a lunatic asylum just so they could keep the house. ‘And, only a month or two ago, I left a couple of friends drinking in a bar in your sector of Berlin, only to learn later that minutes after I had gone Soviet forces surrounded the place and pressed everyone in the bar into a couple of weeks of forced labour.

It also dulls the wits, blunts the memory — not to mention the sex-drive — and generally produces a feeling of listlessness. So it was no surprise to me that there had been a number of occasions during the course of 1947 when, with senses pinched from want of nourishment, I had nearly met with an accident. It was for this very reason I decided to reflect upon my present, rather irrational inclination, which was to take Becker’s case after all, with the benefit of a full stomach. Formerly Berlin’s finest, most famous hotel, the Adlon was now little more than a ruin.

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A German Requiem (Book Three of the Berlin Noir Trilogy) by Philip Kerr


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