Miss Fischer finds who killed her sister


Senior Crime: Compassion Overcomes Terror

Mysterious robberies shake the Paris of Louis XIV. The murders have one thing in common: all victims carried jewelry by the goldsmith Cardillac with them. One night a mysterious messenger knocks on the door of the honorable Fraulein von Scuderi and brings a decorated box. It contains a necklace made by Cardillac and a letter with best regards from the murderer. (Publisher info)

The author

The initials of the author, composer and painter, who was born in Königsberg on January 24, 1776, stand for "Ernst Theodor Amadeus". From 1792 to 1795 he studied law. From 1800 he worked as an assessor in Poznan, Plock and Warsaw. When the French invaded, he lost his job and hired himself, among other things, as a music teacher and theater composer. From 1814 he resumed civil service at the Superior Court in Berlin.

Hoffmann, who represented high romanticism with his poetry, cultivated friendships with Tieck, Fouqué, Eichendorff and Chamisso. In 1809 his first story "Ritter Gluck" appeared. Further works: “Views of the life of the cat Murr” (1819/21), the collection “Fantasy pieces in Callot’s manner” (1815) and “Master Floh” (1922). In the latter text, Hoffmann worked a satire on the police director of Kamptz - Hoffmann condemned the arbitrariness of the police against the democratic, liberal movements. The manuscript was confiscated and did not appear in full until 1908. Hoffmann died, seriously ill, on June 25, 1822.

The spokesman

Michael Rotschopf was born in Austria in 1969. He completed his acting training at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna. Claus Peymann brought him to the Burgtheater in Vienna while still a student. He later played Faust in a production by Peter Stein and had engagements at various German and Austrian theaters. In 1996 he was awarded the O.E. Hasse Prize awarded by the Berlin Academy of the Arts. Since 1998 he has played in various film and television roles. Redhead reads the unabridged version of the text.

Directed by Sigi Viktor Krowas, Michael Walz, Berlin provided the good sound. The cover picture shows an excerpt from a painting by Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel.


The 73-year-old Fraulein Madeleine de Scuderi, a poet favored by King Louis XIV and his mistress, the Marquise de Maintenon, lives in the autumn of 1680 in the Rue St. Honoré in Paris. That evening her servant and cook Baptiste is absent because he was going to his sister's wedding. When around midnight a wild knocking and beating can be heard at the front door, the maid's chambermaid feels uncomfortable because she lacks male protection.

You have to know that these are rough times when you have already heard of serial murders by poison and that the inquisitorial secret court of the king, the notorious "Chambre ardente", persecutes criminals relentlessly and can even land innocent citizens on their search lists . This happened to a real duke who had to vegetate innocently for months in a musty cell in the Bastille before the mistake was recognized and he was released. He had only had a horoscope drawn up by the accomplice of a poisoning company ...

The Scuderi's maid is therefore reluctant to comply with the man's request for admission at the door. But because the young man complains so pitifully and begs for help and claims that the young lady is in danger, she lets herself be softened and opens up. He rushes past her immediately and demands to speak to her mistress. When the gaze falls on his stiletto stuck in his breast jerkin, the maid almost faints, but she recommends her soul to God and refuses to let this monster go one step further - even when the man actually drew his dagger.

The necklace

Fortunately, the maid hears the street patrol approaching at this moment and calls for help. That chases away the intruder, who just hastily hands her a box and quickly disappears. Very suspicious. After the policemen have left, Baptist has returned and calm has come, the young lady calmly opens the box the next morning. Potzwetter: There is a noble collar and two bracelets in it. She asks the Maintenon about this work. This confirms that it is not just about precious stones and pure gold, but also about the unmistakable work of the goldsmith René Cardillac. And he is known to be beyond any doubt about his honor.

Now the Fraulein von Scuderi is a lady of class as well as a well-known poet. She has a reputation to lose. You don't just give her nothing to me, nothing precious jewelry for you, as if you were courting for her favor (not to mention her age). On top of that, the precious items are accompanied by a note with an infamous content. On it, as if in mockery, are exactly those words which the Scuderi had carelessly addressed to the king as a comment on a petition from the “lovers” at court. The young lady is not a little ashamed of this mockery and complains about how she deserved it.

She asks the King and his mistress, the Marquise de Maintenon, for their opinion on this intricate matter. Louis thinks she should wear the jewelry, but she doesn't like the idea at all. The Maintenon is in favor of first finding out what's behind it.

The murders

That's exactly what the lady does. She is particularly concerned about the fact that people who ordered and picked up jewelry from Cardillac have been killed several times recently. A few days later she suffered a premature death in the form of a deliberate stab in the heart. (The police officer of the Chambre Ardente Degrais reports, as is well known, of his testimony to this crime and the subsequent - unsuccessful - persecution of the perpetrator.) The young lady does not want to share this fate under any circumstances. One can understand well.

She goes to the house of the famous goldsmith to return the jewelry. But suddenly unexpected things happen there, in the course of which she is supposed to take responsibility for two young people from Cardillac's house. The young man is the intruder who brought that jewel case to her maid in such a threatening manner. Now the young lady has to show how much her influence is really worth, especially to the insidious Larénier, the president of the dreaded secret police ...

My impression

The action takes place in a general mood of menace. The actual or imagined threat of murder, poison and, above all, treason does not stop at the front door, but invades every Parisian household and poisons even the most intimate relationships such as that between parents and their children, between lovers and everyone else. It's the purest Gestapo mood. That is not far-fetched, because there is already the corresponding horror-spreading Secret Court, which is raging just as badly as the Inquisition was at the time. The executions all take place on Greve Square. The blood rushes, the pyre burns, the gallows noose dangle ...

Not a pleasant time, then, the year 1680. It is no coincidence that these scenes are reminiscent of the year 1790, when the republicans raged among the nobility and, for their part, carried out bloodbaths and executions by guillotine as if on an assembly line. Therefore it is not difficult for me to coin Hoffmann's story on this mega event of the 18th century. And since Napoleon's troops also conquered the German Empire, Hoffmann himself was a French citizen for a time. As a civil servant who upheld law and order according to the newfangled, imported civil code of the “Code Napoleon”, he knew the inner workings of power (and often attacked it).

Against this grim backdrop, Hoffmann lets a thriller-like plot unfold, but in a very unconventional way. Oh yes, the policeman Degrais tells his boss a great robber pistol about the crime of the murdering jewel thief. The present tense gives this scene an immediacy that conveys enough tension and action that no TV junkie can complain.

But the truth behind this series of murders does not unfold through the investigations of the police, but through the sympathetic readiness of Miss von Scuderi to listen to the two young prisoners. These Cardillac protégés know best what they are up against. Only - who would believe them?

So you can see that not only Hoffmann's sentences are nested, but his entire narrative has been rearranged and rearranged in such a way that the eye of the storm, namely Cardillac himself, only has a say at the very end, but we readers and listeners up to to be curious about what the crux of the matter may be. It's easy to think that Cardillac must be the culprit, but nobody would guess what his bizarre motive might be.

The spokesman

You can tell from the very first sentence that Michael Rotschopf has enjoyed classical acting and speaking training. It was not for nothing that he played Faust under Peter Stein. He not only succeeds in breaking Hoffmann's nested sentences, which are notorious for their length, into clearly understandable units of meaning by inserting a pause between each subordinate clause.

In addition, he gives the completely differently characterized characters their very own way of speaking. At the beginning the young intruder pleads with a haunting, downright trembling voice, because redhead gives him a higher pitch. Immediately, however, its tone of voice can drop an octave and appear energetic, even threatening.

Again and again a pathos plays into the emotional monologues and dialogues that would sound exaggeratedly declamatory from the mouth of a less capable speaker. Of course, Redhead has to use a theatrical tone of voice too, but not in such an implausible way that she would make the character look ridiculous.

His pronunciation of French is simply flawless. An educated French could hardly form all names and designations more clearly and correctly. However, this does not help the listener who does not speak French at all. The above-mentioned Scuderi quote about "Un amant ... digne d’amour" is left untranslated. Only a description by Louis XIV follows.

Bottom line

Today's reader is usually a troubled schoolboy who finds himself difficult by the nested sentences and strangely French-speaking diction of Mr. E.T.A. Hoffmann has to bite before something like a solution to the criminal case beckons him. This student is not to be envied, and I hope there are text-critical editions to make this task easier for him and her. Maybe I could give a few suggestions above. (I keep getting letters from students who want to know how the story ends.)

A bloody murder story seems to be the focus, but the author pretends to be marginal. Because in the last third there are three life stories to be examined. Miss von Scuderi has to appraise her, listen to the voice of her heart, assert herself against the nasty High Inquisitor and finally bring the culprit on the path of justice - a whole lot of jobs for a 73-year-old woman who otherwise pass the time with writing poetry.

The allusions to the Frz. Revolution are, in my opinion, quite clear: the unsecured legal situation, the rampant executions, the arbitrariness of the "police", the terror from the dark. But instead of calling for a strong man like Napoleon, Hoffmann presents us with an embodiment of the formation of the heart as an ideal investigator. This is quite unusual and deserves special attention - see above. As a crime thriller, the text is exciting until the end, but also quite sentimental.

The audio book stands out from the mass of classic productions in the audio sector thanks to the excellent lecture by Michael Rotschopf. An actor with classical training is performing here, and you can tell from every sentence. Today we have to admit that he also uses pathos, but he owes that to his text, and I think it's appropriate. More cynical spirits are likely to get angry about it.

156 minutes on 2 CDs

Argon E. T. A. Hoffmann