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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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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