Cover Image: Punishment


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Member Reviews

This novel had immediate appeal to me as I recently saw the play 'Prima Facie' which at its core is a deep interrogation of the difference between truth and legal truth and how the space between the two is often exploited in court. 

Such a theme is also ever present in Ferdinand von Shirach’s Punishment which draws on the writer’s own career as a criminal defence lawyer. In this short story collection, which is highly digestible in very few sittings for it is written in such clean and uncomplicated prose (as rendered in English by Katharina Hall), we are faced with numerous situations in which the truth and the legal truth diverge. 

Stand-out stories, for me anyway, were: A Light Blue Day which has two plot twists, The Small Man which was quite humorous, and Subbotnik which follows a recent law graduate’s first trial. 

Of particular interest to an international reader is that the opening story The Lay Judge gave some insight into the German legal system i.e. in the use of Lay Judges rather than Jurors. 

In the short stories, Neighbours and Lydia von Schirach really gets into the reader’s head: for here, we see von Schirach generate initial empathy in the reader for lonely characters who then go on to vacillate on committing crimes - do they carry them through or not? You’ll have to read it for yourself! 

Finally, I think it is worth adding that whilst von Schirach has stated that the collection — Strafe — completes a trilogy he began with Verbrechen (lit. Crime) and Schuld (lit. Guilt) it is definitely not necessary to read these beforehand and that Strafe (Punishment) does indeed work as a stand-alone. 
Overall, it is a very enjoyable, fast-paced and thought-provoking read! 

Thank you to John Murray Press for the eARC via NetGalley!
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I loved ‘The Collini Case’ by this author so was keen to read this collection of short stories. The stories are well written and interesting and feature the author in his life as a criminal defence lawyer. Like a lot of short stories they can leave you feeling a little short changed suddenly finishing when you were just getting interested. I found this a very quick read and was a perfect book to read while sitting enjoying the recent good weather.

I prefer full length novels but this was still an interesting and enjoyable read.

I would like to thank both Netgalley and John Murray Press for supplying a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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What an incredible read! It had me on the edge of my seat, second guessing what i thought I knew. Highly unpredictable and highly satisfying. It is so intelligently written, which makes it impossible to put down! 

Writing aside, i fell in LOVE with the cover. The vibrant colours really draw the eye! It will take centre stage on my shelf! The blurb doesnt give too much away, but perfectly sets up the story, and is intriguing enough to make you read it straight away!
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Wow! What an amazing book!!
Would love to read more from the author.
Thankyou netgalley for the Arc!
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I would like to thank Netgalley and John Murray Press for an advance copy of Punishment, the third collection of short stories set in the German legal system.

I must admit that I didn’t realise that Punishment is a collection of short stories when I requested to read it, because if I had, I wouldn’t have read it, as short stories don’t really interest me. That would have been a waste as I devoured them and already want more.

Most short story anthologies in the crime fiction genre that I have read tend to try and condense a big story into a short space. These stories are different in that they take a moment in time and explain the actions and consequences of that moment. The resolutions are varied, but that, I think, is hardly the point. They’re all about the motivation and that’s eye opening, but they also have a kink or a neat irony that makes the reader take notice. I would love to give examples, but the stories are so short it would mean spoilers.

I love the writing style, which is a terse recitation of the facts, as it seems to make the tragedy and malfeasance more striking and, in some cases, more heartbreaking. No matter how each story turns out the starkness of the writing brings a focus to the dilemmas and decisions involved. The twelfth story is slightly different. It is written in the first person whereas the others are third person narratives, and suggests that personal tragedy requires a change of course.

Punishment is a short, sharp read that I have no hesitation in recommending.
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Thank you John Murray Press, Baskerville for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. IYKYK, my reviews are always honest. 


Uhh...?? An anthology of odd little stories focused around the question: does the punishment fit the crime? 


First things first, my fellow thrillerheads, this one is probably (most likely) NOT for you. Especially if you enjoy the popcorn/commercial thrillers, you will definitely find this book or short stories odd and boring. This is definitely for someone like Chantel, who said "I like books that make me work for it" so take that as you will LOL. Also, this was originally published in German, so it is your usual Euro writing with some potential translation issues. 

Some of the stories are straightforward, and others (I'm looking at you scuba suit man), are extremely odd. They all feature murder and a brief exploration of what drives people to commit arguably the most cruel act humans are capable of. 

Allegedly this is told by an unnamed omnipresent third-person narrator who reveals little about himself. And, allegedly again, this is based on the author's years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer. I did learn a lot about how the German justice system works, which was very interesting as well as enlightening. It's always nice to walk away with a new nugget of info I can dispense on someone in an attempt to look smarter ;)

I don't want to give my review on each story because they are each pretty short, so I feel it would give too much away. It's best to go in blind and see how you feel LOL. I liked this enough, but again I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. There weren't any life lessons you could take away from this, but it could rouse spirited discussion with a buddy about the outcome of each story and what you feel would be a fit punishment for said character. 

Anywayz. I will reiterate that this book is NOT for everyone. If you find yourself gravitating toward more mainstream thriller authors, stay far, far away. If you like quirky anthology reads and want to learn about the German legal system, be my guest and give it a whirl. 


Pros: totally unique, if you're not familiar with the German legal system you will certainly learn a lot, some of the cases were interesting

Cons: written for a very niche audience
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I absolutely tore through this is one day it was excellent. I suspect the exceptionally short nature of each story helped with this. The stories are fast paced and I found the narrators voice very authentic and believable, probably due to writer previously being a lawyer. I felt myself questioning the morality of the situations in every story and circumstance. I’d definitely pick up something else from this author!
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This was a really interestingly formatted collection of short stories all focusing on the author who was also a criminal defence lawyer. Each of the stories is gripping, fast paced and doesn't fluff anything but just gets stright to the point. A great collection.
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Punishment is a collection of short stories with a theme of legal cases - mostly homicide. Most have a common factor in a disconnect between the outcome and what we might term 'justice'. 

The writer, Ferdinand von Schirach, is a German lawyer and many of the stories revolve around loopholes that allow the perpetrators of the crimes to go unpunished, although sometimes they are punished for things they did not do. Then sometimes we see how these legal quirks pan out. 

The final story is a little different and perhaps autobiographical, explaining how a lawyer came to become a writer.  

I suspect many of these stories occurred to von Schirach as "what if" hypotheticals - looking at a point of criminal law and asking whether, if a very specific set of circumstances arose, it could operate in a way that had not been intended. This could have been dry, it could have felt forced, but the concise and deadpan style of narration allows each case to remain interesting. 

I really enjoyed this collection, although, as can happen with themed stories, there is a risk that if you read too many of them in quick succession they start to blend into one.
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Ferdinand von Schirach’s Strafe, now being published in an English translation (“Punishment”) by Katharina Hall, brings to a close a trilogy of short story collections based on the author’s experiences as a criminal defence lawyer.  The series started with Verbrechen (Crime), Von Schirach’s first published work of fiction, soon followed by Schuld (Guilt).  Punishment is the logical conclusion, reflecting the normal course of criminal proceedings.

The short stories in Punishment are short indeed.  Most run only for a few pages.  The style is terse and to the point, concentrating on the key facts, not unlike the contents of a legal brief.  The subject is generally some horrific crime and involves references to the trial (and punishment) which follows. Wives kill their husbands. A retired businessman goes on a shooting spree. Young boys get embroiled in youth gangs.  Some are found guilty.  Others not.  Some sort of punishment always follows, not necessarily meted out by a judge.

The stories contain little to no philosophical digressions, and only rare displays of emotion, except possibly in the very final story – The Friend – where the detached third-person narration suddenly switches to the first person, bringing us face to face with the criminal lawyer who is, likely, the hidden protagonist who has accompanied us throughout the book.

What is striking about this collection is the fact that, without explicitly entering into philosophical debates, the stories explore the dilemmas behind the criminal justice system.  They continuously nudge the reader into thinking hard about the distinctions between law and justice; statute and morality; private conscience and public order.  There is much to digest here, and yet the stories can also be enjoyed simply for their narration – which is thrilling, edgy and often carries a twist in the tail/tale.
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Thank you to NetGalley, Ferdinand von Schirach and John Murray Press for access to Punishment early for an honest review. 

Punishment consists of 12 short stories that follow 12 crime cases. Some are murder-based, drug-based, abuse based, etc. The author's voice is easy to follow and read. The stories are quick-paced and leave little information about the character that they are following during their short story, but it works completely. Each short story allows just enough information for you to know the situation, what the character is thinking and why they have done/are doing the crime. Some stories are more interesting than others, but with how short this book is, it is a very quick and enjoyable read. The stories in the beginning really grabbed my attention and some of the one-liner sentences hit my gut with how powerful they are and I felt some sorrow for the character involved. 

I went into this book expecting the stories to connect and for there to be more about each character, but I was surprised at how much I didn't mind that they didn't and that they were fast-paced. Overall, I am very pleased with this book and the way that it flows. This is my first novel by Ferdinand, and I hope it won't be my last. 

There are many trigger warnings to keep in mind while reading this novel: abuse of a wife/girlfriend, child abuse, murder, drugs and alcohol/alcoholism, and suicide. 

Rating: 4 stars
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