Writing a whydunit with no secret worth hiding is bad enough. Von Schirach adds bad writing to his bad plotting.
The prose is marred by the inclusion of cringe-worthy exposition, directions to those who will adapt the book for screen, a lazy use of dates to describe people and buildings, and clichés of romance and clichés of law (“The defending lawyers learned something new…that justice can be done only in a fair trial.” A judge says “I don’t like surprises.” At one point silence in the courtroom was, yes, “unbearable” And so on).
Written by a German, set in Germany, the novel could have been written by an Australian who had never been to Europe.
When the story is over there is an acknowledgement by the author that without the “ideas and research” of another person “I could not have written this book”. It is a fitting finish to a lazy piece of work which the author could have written via dictaphone, staring out onto an appealing holiday vista.
But it will be translated onto the screen. Here is the most ridiculous scene in the book.
Caspar, the twenty-something defence lawyer, takes a shower in his hotel room. He walks naked into the bedroom afterwards and who is standing there – Johanna, his teenage crush, now in her late twenties! She let herself in. She has “drawn one of the curtains back just little way and was looking out at the street”. She has her back to him, waiting for him to emerge from the shower (teenage male fantasy). Here he goes into full Mills and Boon:
“In silence he came up behind her, in silence she leaned against him, her hair on his chest.”
He undresses her. The author notices the comings and goings of people at street level.
“She took his hands and pressed them to her small breasts. She reached round behind herself and began caressing him there…He came into her…and everything was fragile, simultaneous and final.”