The Collini Case by Ferdinand von Schirach
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Baldur von Schirach was one of the top officials in Nazi Germany; he was the leader of the Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth) organization. Convicted for crimes against humanity in 1946, he spent 20 years in Spandau prison in Berlin. Ferdinand von Schirach, a lawyer and a writer, whose books have been translated into more than 35 languages, is his grandson. "The Collini Case" (2011) is a good courtroom drama. I find it better than many of John Grisham's novels.
Fabrizio Collini, an elderly man, a toolmaker posing as a Corriere della Serra reporter, visits an 85-year old rich industrialist, Herr Meyer, in a hotel in Berlin. He kills him, and defaces the body ("He couldn't stop, he kept grinding his heel into that face while blood and brain matter spurted over his trouser leg, the carpet, the bedstead.") Then he calls the police, sits down in the lobby, and waits for the law to come. Caspar Leinen, a young attorney on standby duty for legal aid (something like the public defender office in U.S.) picks up the case, against a famous and very experienced prosecution attorney.
I find the plot interesting and "The Collini Case" is a hard book to put down. The denouement is plausible and consistent with the setup. The author, being a criminal law practitioner, obviously knows about the court process in his country. I also like the writing; the sentences are mostly short and simple, yet they well convey the visuals (the translator must have contributed to the overall quality). The best thing of all is that the novel is only 186 pages long. No fluff, no padding, no extraneous stuff that many American writers so love to use to increase the volume. Way to go!
Three and a half stars.
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