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Crime: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 11, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his fiction debut, a collection of 11 stories, German defense lawyer von Schirach displays a facility with contemporary noir in such tales as "Fähner," the depressing account of a troubled marriage that ends in violence, and "The Cello," which depicts the effect of a stifled upbringing on two siblings, but other selections will strike readers as sketchy or obscure. "Love," in which the defense attorney narrator represents a troubled student with a cannibalism fetish, reads more like a brief anecdote shared among professional colleagues than a story with a point. "The Thorn," in which a museum employee takes sadistic pleasure in planting thumbtacks to cause others pain, is equally enigmatic. Von Schirach's tendency to say less than is called for is also evident in his afterword, which confusingly delineates the differences between the American and German justice systems, then concludes that the differences don't matter. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Von Schirach is a defense attorney currently practicing in Berlin. In this collection, he presents accounts of 11 of the cases he has defended. They read with all the character development and suspense you would expect in short fiction. But the spike is that all these heartbreaking cases happened. A young woman takes care of her brother after an accident; he declines unbearably, and she poisons him and rocks him to eternal sleep in the bathtub. An Eastern European woman is sold as a sex worker in Germany; a man dies while with her, and the gruesome dismemberment that her boyfriend embarks on can be seen as an act of love. A husband endures a loveless marriage until he can endure no more. Over and over, von Schirach lets readers know the context-rich backstories behind these human tragedies. He tells his tales with none of the charm, wit, and courtroom action with which defense barrister John Mortimer imbued his fictional Rumpole stories. These are unrelievedly grim but always compassionate and fascinating. --Connie Fletcher

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; Uncorrected Proof edition (January 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307594157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307594150
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #856,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Richard Cumming on January 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
THe author of this collection of short stories is a German lawyer who derives his inspiration from real cases. These stories run the gamut from gory to whimsical. Some cases involve gruesome murders. Others deal with insanity. In one particularly delightful story about a museum guard the tale revolves around a man's experiences guarding the same statue in the same room year after year. It is told in marvelous fashion.

In each story the nameless attorney character makes an appearance as legalities ensue. These stories reveal a writer who has found a way to merge humor, tragedy, violence, and absurdity with an economy of form that is quite stunning. I started reading the book one evening just to try it out since I had never heard of this author. I got into it and I simply could not put it down. I finally stopped with a couple of stories left to savor. I did not want this book to end. Truly fabulous stuff!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Assistant District Attorney Schmidt in one of the stories in Ferdinand von Schirach's novel,'Crime' made a statement that connects all of the stories of murder, mayhem and lust, "Follow the money or follow the sperm. Every murder comes down to one or the other."

Ferdinand von Schirach is a criminal defense lawyer in Berlin, Germany. He has defended the famous and infamous, and here he tells some of their stories. His uncle was a judge and a soldier in World War II. His grandfather was convicted of crimes against humanity at Nuremberg. There is a history here, and the stories von Schirach tells all come from the heart and most involve guilt of some sort. There are eleven stories, all different and all are mesmerizing in their own right.

'Self Defense' may be my favorite story. A man at a train station defends himself from two criminals, the fact that he does not say a word at any time, to anyone, raises the level. The District Attorney and the Defense Attorney vie against each other, and the man continues to remain silent. How do you defend a man who does not speak, it can be done. 'The Thorn' may be the most unusual of stories, a museum guard patrols and guards the same room for some twenty odd years. He comes slightly unhinged, and his journey is one to behold. 'Tanata's Tea Bowl' may be one of the most gruesome crimes, but the story underneath is the reality. The other eight stories are as fascinating.

The characters are rich and full of life. Their stories are told by the author and narrator, but the words come from the characters. The road to their crime is told from their perspective, and the author fills in the voice of the law. Ferdinand von Schirach gives us a base of German law, and how it is practiced.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jack Joyce on February 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this collection, the complex emotions and motivations that drive people to violent crime are examined in a series of short stories by a nararator who is wonderfully insightful, yet clincal and detached. Never read anything quite like this. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ferdinand von Schirach is a criminal defense lawyer in Berlin. In the preface, von Schirach writes that he tells the stories of people he's defended. Thus, this riveting book, ostensibly, is a collection of eleven true stories from cases of his career: defending a mild-mannered 72-year-old physician who one day snapped and decapitated his harpy wife, whom he had married almost 50 years earlier for the sex; representing a young woman who was a phenomenal cellist before she committed her life to tending her deranged and crippled brother, whom she eventually decided to spare from further deterioration by drugging and then drowning him as they both lay in the bathtub; facilitating the release of a mystery figure who with his bare hands calmly killed two thugs who had attacked him in a subway station, and then refused to talk about the incident or even give his identity; defending an utterly nondescript man who, on his last day at a museum where he had been working in the same room as a guard for 23 years, suddenly picked up and smashed to smithereens the Roman statue he had been guarding all that time; and so on, including several that are truly bizarre.

The book exemplifies well, and graphically, how criminal lawyers are exposed to the outer fringes of human behavior and the subterranean depths of the human psyche. Several of the stories are as outré and tragic as the Oedipus myth. Part of what makes the collection especially gripping is von Schirach's calm, measured prose. (On occasion, it becomes distinguished in its originality - for example, referring to the soon-to-be beheaded harpy, "Ingrid's metallic voice laid down animosity after animosity like railroad tracks.") Another aspect that enhanced the reading experience for me was that the stories take place in Germany.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Buzz on April 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't usually read short story collections, but I'm glad that, based on a very favorable NYT review, I gave "Crime," by Ferdinand Von Schirach, a chance. I was initially attracted to the book by the fact that the author is a German criminal defense lawyer, and that I have recently read several translations of German novels, which were excellent. At only 188 pages, I thought I couldn't go wrong. I ended up wishing that Schirach had written more.

It is unclear whether these 11 stories of contemporary German crime, are fiction or non-fiction. I suspect that they are largely fiction, but, like much good fictional literature, most likely they have their roots in the author's experiences. Regardless, the stories are mesmerizing. While each tale is quite different, there is a common thread of guilt, and perhaps evil, which runs through them. Schirach's tone is conversational, and his power as a story teller derives from the simplicity and directness of his language, which avoids the usual hyperbole found in so much crime drama. Although each story can be picked up and read at any time, I suspect that many readers, like me, will finish this volume in one or two sittings.

This is not a book by a lawyer, written for lawyers. However, I gained a lot of knowledge about criminal law procedures, and about the philosophy of modern German legal practice, which have much to commend themselves to those of us who have been brought up on the English common law system and are unaware that there are other approaches to justice available.
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