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Pub Date 18 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 18 Aug 2022

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A young lawyer puts aside her sense of justice to succeed at her new firm.

A man who values silence is driven to murder by his noisy neighbours.

A cheated wife seeks revenge.

How do you decide what punishment fits the crime?

Our narrator is a man you'd never want to meet unless you really needed him. A nameless criminal defence lawyer, he coolly narrates the fate of twelve characters who cross his path. In spare, gripping prose, he tells their stories, uncovering the loneliness and alienation, desire and desperation which drive their choices and shape the consequences they face.

Drawn from Ferdinand von Schirach's eminent career as a criminal defence lawyer, Punishment masterfully treads the line between fiction and truth, each meticulously crafted story crackling with white-knuckle suspense and vivid characters who stay with you long after the final page.

Translated by Katharina Hall.

A young lawyer puts aside her sense of justice to succeed at her new firm.

A man who values silence is driven to murder by his noisy neighbours.

A cheated wife seeks revenge.

How do you decide what...

Advance Praise

'One of the most distinctive voices in European literature' Daily Telegraph

'One of the most distinctive voices in European literature' Daily Telegraph

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ISBN 9781529345681
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Featured Reviews

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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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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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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Wow! What an amazing book!!
Would love to read more from the author.
Thankyou netgalley for the Arc!

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