Corsica, May 1901: A young man in a linen suit, its jacket draped over his shoulder, strolls casually along the beach. Two young women, sisters, follow him with their eyes. One of them, Lina Molitor, will run away to America with him, and become his wife.
Karlsruhe, six years later: the young man, Karl Hau, is on trial, accused of murdering his mother-in-law to inherit her money. Lina commits suicide.
Schroeder relates the story of a mysterious criminal case, one of the most sensational trials of the German Empire, and illuminates the inner life of his protagonists.
To the people of provincial Karlsruhe, Karl Hau seems a contradictory figure. He is at once self-confident, haughty, and highly intelligent, but also an impostor, womanizer and spendthrift, as well as a loving husband and father.
Although he never confesses to the crime, the evidence weighs against him. Hau is sentenced to death, a conviction subsequently reduced to life imprisonment. In 1924 he is released and writes two highly controversial bestsellers about his case.
Bernd Schroeder delivers a fascinating and multi-faceted picture of Karl Hau's life and times. Seldom has a writer drawn so close to his characters, men and women entangled in a net of love and betrayal, crime and punishment.
"As dubious as Hau's character might be, as certain is the mastery of this novel" (FAZ)
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