Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Collini Case - Ferdinand von Schirach - German Literature Month 2012





Translated by Anthea Bell

'What you do now will determine the rest of your life...'


Caspar Leinen is young, just starting out on his career as a lawyer, and he takes on the case of Fabrizio Collini. Proving that Collini is not-guilty in this case could really establish Leinen as a defense attorney and make his name. Collini has worked for the same company for thirty-four years, and appears to be a decent and quiet man. Then one day he walks into a luxurious Berlin hotel and kills a man. Having taken on the case, Leinen then discovers that he knows Collini’s victim. This presents him with a dilemma on both a personal level, and professionally. 

As he continues with the case, at first, there seems nothing that indicates why Collini has acted as he has, and both Leinen and the reader are left asking, what is the motive for this murder? Leinen works into the small hours sorting and searching through the statements, and evidence:

'Leinen was looking for something, although he didn't know what. He had overlooked some small detail. There must be a key somewhere that would explain the murder and put the world back in order.'

The tension mounts as Leinen finally makes a discovery regarding the case. The discovery is only revealed to the reader at the moment that it is revealed to the judge and jury in the trial, making us a full part of the story, and heightening our anticipation of the revelations to come. It is shocking and surprising when it comes, as it is brings into question an aspect of the German justice system itself.

I felt drawn into this story from the start, it is compelling. It’s a short book, which hits you with the detail of the story and the background that you need to know, with no superfluous extras. This is crisp spare prose, the interactions of the characters and everything that happens is all geared towards building the plot, leading to the main scene, the evidence given in the court room during the trial. The writer is one of Germany's most prominent defense lawyers working in Berlin and this shows in the authenticity and sharpness of the prose. This book is well worth a read.

Published by Michael Joseph 


( - I am sharing this review again as part of German Literature Month - see this post for more information.)

11 comments:

  1. Thanks the review. I bought this after seeing it on Caroline's blog, but I won't be reviewing it for GLM. Coincidence: I just read a Zweig novella from the same translator.

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    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I hope you enjoy this one.

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  2. I read the book Crime by Ferdinand von Schirach for the German Lit Month last year and I really liked his writing style. This sounds like my kind of book, thanks for the review.

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    1. I will look out for that one and have a look at your review. This was a really good read.

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    1. Thanks for your comment and for reading the review the first time around!

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  4. I liked this a lot but his two short story collections, Crime and Guilt, are even better. On the other hand, i liked that he looked at Germna history and the case is really hard to believe.

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    1. Thanks for commenting Caroline. I am going to look out for those two collections.

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  5. Nice review, Lindsay! I want to read this book NOW :) I read von Schirach's 'Crime' sometime back and liked it very much. I liked what you said about his crisp spare prose - it is simple and very effective. Thanks for this wonderful review.

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    1. Thanks for commenting Vishy. Crime has been recommended several times now, so I must get a copy and read that one. Thanks for your kind words.

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