The Collini Case by Ferdinand von Schirach (Penguin, Aug. 2013)-Fabrizio Collini, already into his sixties and recently retired, has led a blameless life, so it’s a shock when he calmly confronts industrialist Jean-Baptist Meyer, a man in his eighties, in his hotel room in Germany, shoots him four times in the head, and stomps on him repeatedly. Collini then calmly informs the front desk that the man in Room 400 is dead. He’s of course promptly arrested for the murder and makes no attempt to defend himself. Soon he’s assigned a defense lawyer by the name of Casper Leinen, and this is to be Leinen’s first murder case. Leinen is determined to get a not guilty verdict, but the evidence is too great to overcome, or so he first thinks. There’s no doubt that Collini killed Meyer, but why did he do it? Leinen also discovers that he has ties to the victim, but the information that he eventually finds point to a very different man then the one he knew so many years ago, and go far toward explaining the why of the murder, but will it be enough?
Sometimes it’s nice to slip a bite sized read between heavier endeavors, and for this reason, The Collini Case more than fit the bill. The prose is spare, but still manages to convey the melancholy in which Collini is mired in while pursuing the truth behind Meyer’s murder. The truth, in fact, leads back to Italy, the country of Collini’s birth, and a people under the Mussolini led Italian Social Republic, made possible by Hitler himself. You can probably imagine where the story leads, but it certainly doesn’t lesson the impact of the horrors that Nazi Germany perpetrated. While short and very lean, The Collini case is not only a glimpse at the great evil of the Third Reich, but it’s also about Leinen’s loss of childhood innocence, as the truth comes to light. The author packs quite a bit of punch into such a short volume, and the straightforward prose only serves to highlight the horrors lurking underneath a veneer of civility. This is a quick, but entertaining diversion for those that are fond of courtroom intrigue and filler-free narrative.