Lately, I’ve been getting a lot more reading done than what it would seem like from the blog. I just read and then don’t write about it because there’s so much more reading to be done. And also, because apart from reading, I’ve been enjoying the gorgeous summery weather and working too much. The combination of the latter two has also drawn me in the direction of pleasure reading – not that I don’t do most of my reading for pleasure anyway, but by “pleasure reading”, I mean the kind where you just devour a book that doesn’t challenge your brain too much by being very literally radical or innovative. And so I purchased Der Fall Collini (English translation: The Collini Case) with the intention of giving my grey matter a bit of a rest. It was a good choice, although it reads so fast it only lasted me for a day and a half (during which I also did other things, including cleaning, doing the shopping, and going to a birthday party).
Der Fall Collini is about an unusual murder. Fabrizio Collini, an Italian who’s been living in Germany as a law-abiding citizen for decades, kills a well known industrial magnate, and immediately confesses. He doesn’t want to give away his motive though, the only thing that could reduce his sentence. And so it is up to his young lawyer, Caspar Leinen, to find out why Collini shot an innocent man.
Der Fall Collini was a bit slow-going at first, but I think this was very clever on behalf of Ferdinand von Schirach: it was just as slow-going as Collini’s trial. With everything this obvious and the defendant absolutely unwilling to talk beyond confession, what was there left to do for Caspar Leinen? And then it slowly sucks you in, as Leinen dives deeper into the case. For him, this means diving deeply into the past – including his own. While the entangling of Leinen’s own life with his very first case might seem contrived in other novels, this was not the case here at all. It enabled von Schirach (grandson of Baldur von Schirach, a leading Nazi war criminal) to comment on how Germans are often forced to deal with the fact that people they love on a personal level may have connections to the darkest chapters of Germany’s history that are very difficult to reconcile with the picture they may have formed of these people. I hope I’m not giving away too much here (as Caroline already commented in her review, it’s difficult to write about Der Fall Collini without doing just that).
Aside from these aspects, I enjoyed von Schirach’s simple language and how calmly he told the story. Despite the topic, this made Der Fall Collini the sort of no-frills book I’d been looking for. Von Schirach is an attorney himself and knows the German justice system from the inside, giving the book additional credibility. I also liked the way he included Leinen’s musings on the system and justice in general, which added some more depth to the plot. Der Fall Collini is a good and fast read without being trivial at all.