As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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‘The Girl Who Wasn't There’ by Ferdinand von Schirach
Published by Little Brown, 15 January 2015.
Sebastian von Eschburg,
born into an aristocratic family from the German province of Southern Bavaria,
once rich but now no more so, had a pretty wretched childhood. His parents were
more concerned in ensuring that his behaviour conformed with their notions of
how children should behave than in showing him love. At the age of 10 he was
sent to a Benedictine boarding school; there he was not particularly maltreated
and he discovered the pleasures of reading, retreating into a world that was
more acceptable to him than reality. He also discovered that his visual senses
were especially strong, enabling him to see the world in a myriad of colours.
But when his father kills himself his mother sells the family home and buys an
equestrian centre. Soon she has a lover and there is little room in her life
for Sebastian who more and more is thrown back on himself. He meets a former
pupil of the school who has become a photographer; Sebastian is attracted to
the medium, specifically the industrial images: 'no human beings in them, harsh
photographs with a backdrop of pale gray skies.” He becomes a professional
photographer, earning his bread-and-butter through wedding photographs,
graduation ceremonies and the like, but also establishing a reputation as an
art photographer. He starts a relationship with a woman called Sofia and she is
the model in a number of daring photographs which are both erotic and surreal
and really make his name. The narrative then shifts to Monika Landau, a public
prosecutor who is presiding over the highly aggressive questioning of Sebastian
on a charge of murder of a young woman – no name, no body but evidence through
bloodstained photographs, moreover a charge to which Sebastian has confessed.
The narrative shifts again to Konrad Biegler, Sebastian's defence lawyer, a man
of great experience who has featured in an earlier novel, The Collini Case. Biegler
himself is going through something ofa
mid-life crisis and has been despatched by his wife to a hotel in the mountains
to sort himself out but when he hears of this case he hurries back, anxious to
rejoin the world he knows. The hearing turns on the circumstances in which
Sebastian's confession was made; if it was made under the threat of violence it
is inadmissible no matter how willing Sebastian was to make it.
The author is a prominent defence lawyer in Germany. I found
the chapters on the trial itself particularly interesting. The theme of the
novel becomes apparent at the end; it is the contrast between reality and
illusion, between deception and truth. The translation is excellent.
Reviewer: Radmila May
Ferdinand von Schirachwas born in 1964 in Munich, Germany. He is a German
lawyer and writer. He published his first short stories at the age of
forty-five. Shortly thereafter he became one of Germany's most successful
authors. His books have sold millions of copies worldwide and have made him
"an internationally celebrated star of German literature."
Schirach's books has been translated into more than 35 languages