Crime
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Crime

Ferdinand von Schirach

Crime is a collection of true crime stories told by one of Germany’s most prominent defense lawyers. Some of the cases are strange, some bewildering and others heartbreaking, but all are told with genuine concern for those who have slipped through the protective nets of society.

  • What would make a polite, well-liked doctor cut up his wife’s with an axe?
  • Why would a boy slaughter the sheep in his village?
  • Who is the silent man that coolly murdered two neo-Nazis on a suburban train platform?
  • What connection does a German bank robber have to an Ethiopian village?
  • Why would a museum drop all charges against someone who deliberately smashed one of their statues?

However heinous the crimes, the author shows readers the human at the core. Crime is an incredibly moving look at the legal system and the people it serves, from an expert of criminal law and a powerful new voice in writing.

Review

Ferdinand von Schirach’s debut collection of short stories is based on some of his most memorable cases as a criminal defence lawyer in Berlin. A reticent doctor calmly dismembers his wife after silently enduring her cruelty for 40 years. A man waiting on a train platform beats two aggressive neo-Nazi thugs to death in the flash of an eye, before returning to his bench, lighting a cigarette and waiting patiently for his arrest. A talented musician drowns her dearly loved brother in the bathtub after a horrific accident which leaves him scarred and amnesic. In each instance, von Schirach methodically gathers the details of the case, giving pause in the aftermath of the trial to contemplate the limitations of the criminal justice system and the complexities of determining punishment for perpetrators who are often either naive or deeply traumatised.

Like the best practitioners of his field, von Schirach is meticulous when relating the lives of his clients, while respecting their confidences where necessary, evoking sympathy for his subjects without frustrating the reader with an excess of professional brevity. Von Schirach does not presume to speak for the psychology of the criminal acts he defends, and he studiously avoids casting judgement; the allure of the dozen cases he describes lies in the gap between the gentle portraits of his defendants and the bizarre, idiotic or abhorrent acts of which they are accused. Representing with equal vigour a leading industrialist and an illegal immigrant forced into prostitution, von Schirach presents a fascinating cross-section of German society, entertainingly told against the backdrop of his light-hearted encounters with other members of the profession and the quirks of the continental legal system.

Already a bestseller in Germany, Crime is currently being adapted into a film, and another collection based on the author’s Der Spiegel columns will be released later in the year.

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