The Collini Caseby Ferdinand Von Schirach, translated from the German by Anthea Bell
The author of The Collini Case, a prominent German defence lawyer himself, honed his writing on short stories – case histories of gruesome and shocking crimes, of people who get away with murder and the like. His first novel, a courtroom drama, isn’t long either, but he does pack a whole lot of story into its 160 pages.
It starts with a murder. A prominent German businessman is killed by Fabrizio Collini, a quiet Italian who has worked for Mercedes Benz for decades. Caspar Leinen, a young defence lawyer takes on the case – a good result will make his name. However, after accepting it, he finds out that the victim was known to him and he is unable to get out of the case. Collini admits guilt, but refuses to give a motive – it doesn’t look good for Leinen’s reputation. We read about how Caspar got to where he is, and his relationship with the deceased. We see how the German justice system works; Leinen’s case is surely doomed – and before we know it, we’re at page 100. Then he makes a discovery. Everything changes and the rest of the novel is turbocharged by its results towards a dramatic courtroom conclusion.
It’s a taut novel, which has been a best-seller already in Germany. It doesn’t get bogged down with court procedure, keeping to the essentials only, and not over-dramatising the lawyers’ performances. There’s no melodrama here, yet the book works brilliantly as a gripping legal thriller that can be read in one sitting. I enjoyed it so much I almost wished it had been longer, but its brevity is a large part of why it was so good! (8.5/10)
Von Schirach has an interesting history which obviously influences and informs his own writing, for his grandfather was tried for Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg. There was an interesting article in the Guardian which you can link to here, which tells more (slight spoiler alert though). You can also read Simon S’s reviews of his short stories here – I’m keen to read the first collection, Crime, in particular now.
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I received an ARC of this book from Amazon Vine.
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The Collini Caseby Ferdinand Von Schirach. Pub Sept 13 by Michael Joseph, Hdbk.
Crime by Ferdinand Von Schirach – short stories, 2011.
3 thoughts on “A short, sharp German legal thriller…”
I ve his crime to read ,I like that bell has translate his books she is such a great translator ,I like the fact that he is in the world of crime and law so his books must have a ring of truth about them I fell ,all the best stu
Just up my street. I thank you for bringing it to my attention. Oh dear, how dreadful to have a grandfather with a history like that!
Hi Tom – long time no hear. Hope all goes well. This was a good read – recommended.