GUILT

Written by Ferdinand von Schirach

Review written by Gwen Moffat

Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.


GUILT
Chatto and Windus
RRP: £12.99
Released: 1st March 2012
Hbk

Von Schirach is a German defence lawyer and this work reads like a selection of his cases. Short pieces in style pared to the bone: effective and absolute except where mystery is the object.

In fifteen dramas cunningly titled, the author runs the gamut of  crime from shoplifting to gang rape, aborted murder to torture: trivial, savage, obscene -- yet sheer farce when a mastiff swallows the key to a locker containing a drugs fortune. And as startling finale to a new exposure of man's treatment of his own species Von Schirach gives us a three-page item that is madly funny.

Much credit is due the translator, Carol Brown, and one is tempted to say that the result of the partnership is unique but in its harsh sophistication, non-judgemental, cool, there is a hint of Somerset Maugham at his best and, in glimpses into the minds of haunted criminals, there is an echoof Dante's hell. A tour de force.

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