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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Crime & Guilt, by Ferdinand von Schirach

Crime & Guilt, by German author Ferdinand von Schirach (Sheer-rack) is a romp of a book, leaving you caught up in raucous laughter and bitter tears.  Some would call it a collection of stories, but I call it a book of portraits, or a collection of lives, with a peek into family secrets, interwoven with exactly what the title implies.

The diverse characters populate plots exposing every human frailty and strength.  Take the case of The Hedgehog.  “…only Karim, a brother of the accused was still to be heard.  Hmmmm, thought the presiding judge, we all know what to expect from alibies provided by relatives.  He only had one question for this witness…”  But, one question always leads to another and another, until suddenly, what is certain is suddenly uncertain.  Open and shut case, right?  Well, at least open.

Then there is The Key, a tale of crime and hilarity that reads like a Guy Ritchie British gangster movie.  In all there are eleven stores until the title of Crimeand  another fifteen under the title of Guilt and sometimes it’s difficult to tell which should be labeled as which.

Every story has its surprises, decorated with gritty details.  How about the tale of a man who is pestered by a pair of Neo-Nazi thugs on a railway platform and dispatches them with the speed of a man slapping mosquitoes?  Who is he and what happens next?

At 430 pages, some would say this book is long, but I found myself wishing it were twice the length, maybe longer.  Von Schirach writes with such clarity and composure that you find yourself turning page at the speed of heat, not to finish the book or the story, but to smile and laugh and cry over what comes next.

I’ve written of two other of von Schirach’s books, The Collini Caseand The Girl Who Wasn’t There.  You don’t want to miss those either.

Clever!  Engaging!  Write faster Herr von Schirach!