Summer Reading, Part One

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Need recommendations for books to tuck in your weekend bag (or download)? Here are three, with more to follow in next Thursday’s newsletter.

Greeks Bearing Gifts (A Bernie Gunther Novel)

British author Philip Kerr, who died this past March, gave the world his great literary invention, the Berlin cop and private investigator Bernie Gunther (formally Bernhard Günther) back in 1989. The “Berlin Noir” trilogy introduced us to Gunther, a Sam Spade-type, hard-boiled antihero who must solve crimes as his city and country slip into the nightmare of Nazi domination. The Nazi takeover of the police force and of Germany form not only the backdrop for the mysteries that follow but also serve to portray Gunther’s personal fall from grace.

“Greeks Bearing Gifts” is Kerr’s 13th book in the series. Unlike some of the novels which jump in time and place from the pre-war period to after the destruction of the Nazi regime, “Greeks Bearing Gifts” is set entirely in the year 1956. While working under an assumed name as a claims adjuster for a German insurance company, Gunther is sent to Athens to investigate the sinking of a boat that is tied to several Germans who committed war crimes in occupied Greece.

It’s a great summer read. Gunther narrates in a tough-talking, first-person style worthy of Philip Marlowe and Kerr always weaves in appearances by real-life historic characters for Gunther to interact with. Of course, there’s also a femme fatale — in this case, a beautiful Greek lawyer. “Greeks Bearing Gifts” is the penultimate Bernie Gunther novel as Kerr delivered the finished manuscript for the final Gunther to his publisher shortly before his death. “Metropolis,” sadly the last episode of this very original character, will be published in 2019.

The Best of Richard Matheson

“The Best of Richard Matheson” is a great collection of horror/sci-fi short stories from the author of the 1954 novel “I Am Legend.” Matheson wrote many “Twilight Zone” episodes, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” which starred a young William Shatner. The original story is included here. A blurb on the back cover from Stephen King credits Matheson “as the author who influenced me most as a writer.”

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

“The Lost City of the Monkey God” is the dramatic — and sometimes funny — nonfiction account by Douglas Preston of the 2012 discovery of a massive lost city in the jungles of Honduras. Preston describes the use of a then-new high-tech system of LIDAR airborne scans and the perilous journey to the site by scientists, who risked death from wild animals and tropical disease. The biggest mystery of all: What happened to the original inhabitants?

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