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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. There may be a different format but essentially the law is the same in Germany and the United Sates. There is good and then there is bad, and then we have the legal system. We get a glimpse of the man and his make-up, and the hope is that more stories are on their way.

Highly Recommended. prisrob 03-14-11
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 December 2011
This debut collection of eleven short stories by a prominent German lawyer is an excellent window into the psychology of crime. Each brief story (all apparently based at least in part on real cases) lays out the facts of a case taken up by a criminal defense lawyer who is also the book's unobtrusive narrator. Using economical and unadorned prose, the author is able to create a strong sense of the lives of the defendants, and the circumstances and choices that led to their legal troubles. There is a certain dry restraint to this approach that some readers may find a little lifeless, but I found it to be honest and even compassionate in its execution.

The crimes range from the relatively mundane (an elderly man snaps after fifty years of marriage to a shrewish woman and kills her, a sister kills her disabled brother after years of caring for him) to the extreme (a museum guard destroys the piece he has been guarding for 23 years, a schizophrenic young man attempts to slice off a portion of the woman he is deeply in love with so that he can eat her). What is unveiled over the course of most of the stories is not the mundane matter of guilt or innocence, but the underlying psychology of the individuals, and in these cases, the narrator is keen to express their humanity. However in a few stories, such as one about about a mysterious mute man who kills two skinheads who attack him on a train platform, or another about a Lebanese boy who creates a perfect alibi for his criminal brother, the author seems more intent in showing how the law can sometimes be circumvented by the truly clever.

The stories are fascinating, not only for their details and presentation, but for the small insights they offer into contemporary German society. Among the characters are a man who was adopted from Ethiopia, a Balkan refugee woman who ends up in the sex trade, a large family of Lebanese brothers, a Palestinian refugee, a Turkish street thug, and a Greek gangster. The German legal system is a character in its own right, with procedures (no juries), roles (prosecutors are supposed to be neutral participants), and goals that will strike the American reader as alien. But it's hard not to come away from this book thinking that the German system is somewhat better at producing true justice. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys intelligent procedural crime fiction or television shows.
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on 13 January 2013
I discovered von Schirach through 'The Cassini Case,' and the spare, taut character of that book is carried through in this collection. The book brings together in English translation two separate titles first published in German. In total there are perhaps 30 short accounts, some very short, of cases with which von Schirach has dealt (names and details changed, of course). You will need a strong stomach to read some of these tales. Not because they are gory: very few are. However, the sheer misery and brutality of some people's lives, and what they do in response to their circumstances will, I think, sometimes take your breath away. This is von Schirach's achievement: to present, candidly and without the slightest patronising note, the utter hell which some people (perhaps very many) endure day after day, and what happens when finally they can take no more.
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on 31 December 2011
I saw this book in our independent book shop, bought a copy and liked it so much that I bought a second copy from Amazon.It is very well written and easy to read. I like the short stories, I can read one and finish it before dropping off to sleep at night or also read and finish a story on a short journey.It is an easy book to carry around. The stories are varying length and all very different.They are about people and the crimes they commit- sometimes the crimes are very understandable. I have read some of the stories more than twice.It is obvous that the author is using his experience as a lawyer to write. My German friends have also read and enjoyed the original German book.
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on 18 September 2012
Here are two collections of short stories Guilt and Crime, narratives linked by the presence of the lawyer in each of the tales, collected together in one edition. Von Schirach's personal experiences as a lawyer provide the raw material for the book. He fleshes out the stories of the individuals and the organisations, good and bad, behind the crimes committed and the course the law takes, exploring the why? the frailty, brutality and humanity of the characters. Sometimes surprising but always enlightening these stories are compassionate but critical. This was a joy to read, simply written but intelligent. highly recommended. Reminded me of The Reader - schlink. Von Schirach's new novel The Collini Case has just been published and I will be getting it soon.
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on 19 January 2014
A German friend of mine recommended this book to me on the strength of his inability to put down. Every morning he couldn't wait to tell me a few of the short stories he had read the night before. I'd never seen someone tell me of a book before that caused such deep emotion and character to spill out before.

Without further ado I bought the kindle edition and haven't stopped reading.

I find it very difficult not to spoil the book for others, it's just madness some of the things that the human mind can push us to do!
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on 8 January 2013
I was recommended this by a fellow reader whose opinion I value and I'm so pleased I bought this. I'm not usually a fan of short stories, preferring instead to spend more indepth time with characters but boy this shattered my perception of short stories. I've never connected so deeply with characters in just a few short pages. I was hooked fro the first story Fahner right through to the end. And once id finished the collection I went back to the beginning and started again. More than just a series of heinous deeds - this is an insight into lives. Loved it
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This book consists of 26 stories about either crime or guilt taking place in Germany. They are tightly packed with information, but not exactly expansive. These are true crimes, though some are not exactly crimes. In The Thorn, a man, through an oversight of some beaurocrat, is assigned to guard the same exhibit in the same room for the whole of his life. He is in the room with a statue of a boy pulling a thorn from his foot, but the thorn itself has long since disappeared. Over the years of guarding the same exhibit in the same room, who wouldn't go a little mad?

Other stories are immeasurably sad, hugely frustrating but sometimes have an edge of quirkiness that lifts them out of the ordinary. The stories come without frills, no great investigations, and it is interesting how the German justice system is different to ours in subtle ways, that seem to hinder the methods that might lead to a conviction. It is not as adversarial as the British system. A prosecutor is supposed to remain neutral, merely giving the facts of the case. I found this to be an intriguing read.
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on 8 April 2011
11 short stories all involving a crime and (in a minor way) a defence barrister - the book is written by a defence barrister and it has a strong sense of realism - although it's also clear most of these stories can't quite be true just as narrated.

The stories are widely varied in tone and content, the characters all living life on the edge in different ways (however rich they are), and all either seriously unhappy or at risk of becoming so. The events are vivid, the story telling simple and direct, final twists in the narratives where they occur highly inventive.

I look forward to the next instalment, described as forthcoming in translation on the book's jacket. Strongly recommended.
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on 7 November 2015
I decided to read ‘Crime’ by Ferdinand Von Schirach after reading ‘The Girl Who Wasn’t There’ as I was so impressed by the author’s writing.

Von Schirach is an excellent story teller and apparently an acclaimed German defence lawyer. His writing is superb.

‘Crime’ involves the telling of 11 true crimes by a nameless lawyer, who is involved in each story. The crimes are violent however in each story the reader is able to empathise with the perpetrator and leads the reader to question what truly is reality.

Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. (René Magritte)
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