“Can a murderer be and remain our friend?

Or, if you want to put it more bluntly: Can we reconcile the fact that one of us committed murder with our self-image?” asks Sabine.

The scientist describes the dilemma of her circle of friends in relation to a journalist who wants to reopen the old case of the murder in the parking garage.

What sounds like one of the countless true crime podcasts that have been digging up controversial cases since the success of the American true crime show "Serial" is actually the background story of the novel "Ein Leben Lang" by Christoph Poschenrieder.

Maria Wiesner

Editor in the “Society & Style” department.

  • Follow I follow

The author plays with the format, but he has taken a real case as a template: a rich entrepreneur is found dead in his penthouse apartment, brutally murdered.

The perpetrator is said to have struck more than twenty times.

Suspicion quickly falls on his nephew, who was supposed to take over the business one day, but was allegedly at odds with his uncle.

The young man is part of a close circle of friends who from then on endures every day of the trial in court and at some point begins to investigate himself.

A true case from Munich as a template

Anyone who lives in Munich knows this story under the keyword "parking garage murder".

In May 2006 there was a brutal robbery in an apartment above a multi-storey car park.

The suspect was the nephew.

Only the person who was killed with two dozen blows was not an uncle but a rich aunt who belonged to the Munich society.

This made the subsequent trial particularly spectacular for the tabloid press.

The nephew is still in prison today, and a group of supporters has been trying for years to reopen the case and have it tried again.

The author incorporates most of the facts, from the parking garage to the circle of friends, into the plot of his book.

In contrast to the true crime podcasts, however, the aim here is not to reconstruct the course of the crime as accurately as possible.

Poschenrieder, who was born near Boston and now lives in Munich, tries to follow the tradition of Truman Capote's novel "In Cold Blood", like that writer, takes facts from reality, but weaves them with fiction into literature.

"A Lifetime" is primarily interested in psychology, so it primarily looks at the interaction between friends, questions what happens in a group when someone is suddenly suspected and accused of being a murderer, and wants to know if and when this group will breaks at such an accusation.

The book is structured quite soberly along the research material of the investigating, nameless journalist, who only gets a chance to speak based on inserted memos.

They also thwart the expectation that reopening an old case must always result in new findings about the murder ("The publisher wants a scandal").

The chapters have simple headings: "crime scene", "act" or "traces".

What is spread out there are minutes of conversations with the circle of friends, which sometimes complement each other, sometimes contradict, sometimes reply to one another.

Lies are unmasked, mistakes uncovered, details explained again and again.

By lining up the protocols, a dialogue is created without the voices chattering at each other.

Above all, they paint a picture of the youth in the suburbs.

They talk about bike rides together and a hut by the lake, where the truth is later fought.

But they also draw parallels to similar, real cases, such as that of the American Amanda Knox, who was accused of killing her roommate in Italy.

As with Knox, the question of guilt has long since been clarified in the real case of the murder in the parking garage.

Poschenrieder wants to know how people deal with it.

Christoph Poschenrieder: "A lifetime".


Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 2022. 304 p., hardcover, €25.