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The Quiet Twin

Overview

Vienna, 1939. Professor Speckstein's dog has been brutally killed, the latest victim in a string of unsolved murders. Speckstein wants answers-but these are uncharitable times, and one must be careful where one probes …

When an unexpected house call leads Dr. Beer to Speckstein's apartment, he finds himself in the bedroom of Zuzka, the professor's niece. Wide-eyed, flirtatious, and not detectably ill, Zuzka leads the young doctor to her window and opens up a view of their ...

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The Quiet Twin

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Overview

Vienna, 1939. Professor Speckstein's dog has been brutally killed, the latest victim in a string of unsolved murders. Speckstein wants answers-but these are uncharitable times, and one must be careful where one probes …

When an unexpected house call leads Dr. Beer to Speckstein's apartment, he finds himself in the bedroom of Zuzka, the professor's niece. Wide-eyed, flirtatious, and not detectably ill, Zuzka leads the young doctor to her window and opens up a view of their apartment block that Beer has never known. Across the shared courtyard, there is nine-year-old Anneliese, the lonely daughter of an alcoholic. Five windows to the left lives a secretive mime who comes home late at night and keeps something-or someone-precious hidden from view. From the garret drifts the mournful sound of a trumpet player, and a basement door swings closed behind the building's inscrutable janitor.

Does one of these enigmatic neighbors have blood on their hands?

Dr. Beer, who has his own reasons for keeping his private life hidden from public scrutiny, reluctantly becomes embroiled in an inquiry that forces him to face the dark realities of Nazi rule. By turns chilling and tender, The Quiet Twin explores a dystopian world of social paranoia, mistrust, and fear-and the danger of staying silent.

Praise for The Quiet Twin:

"A compelling rumination on watching and watchfulness, served up with Nabokovian glee." -Guardian (UK )

"A striking, pitch-perfect, wonderfully atmospheric and beautifully written ensemble piece that subtly portrays a society on the brink of moral collapse."-Sunday Telegraph (UK )

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in Vienna during the first weeks of WWII, Vyleta’s captivating detective story, told from multiple perspectives, examines the paranoia and mistrust of neighbors during the height of Hitler’s regime. Neighborhood physician Dr. Anton Beer, a specialist in nervous disorders and forensics, is asked by his colleague, Dr. Speckstein, to investigate the death and disembowelment of his beloved pet dog. As the mystery of the slain dog deepens, it becomes apparent that the animal’s death may be tied to a serial killer in the city, or perhaps something even more sinister. Also central to the plot are Zuzka, Speckstein’s hypochondriac niece, who becomes fascinated with a mime living across the courtyard, and Anneliese Grotter, a hunchbacked seven-year-old with an alcoholic father. Anton and the two girls are on the verge of unraveling the mystery when Det. Franz Teuben, a zealous Nazi, begins to investigate the killings. Vyleta (Pavel & I) carefully provides political and historical context, resulting in a plot that takes a while to get going. However, when the pace picks up, readers will appreciate the novel’s well-crafted pathos, dark humor, and chills. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Set in Vienna in the fall of 1939, just as World War II is getting under way, Vyleta's (Pavel & I) novel focuses on residents of an apartment block where several unsolved murders have recently occurred. After Professor Speckstein's dog is killed, Dr. Anton Beer is brought in to examine his high-strung niece, Zuzka. As they gaze out her bedroom window, Zuzka shows Dr. Beer his neighbors as he's never seen them before. Besides Speckstein, the disgraced professor-turned-Nazi informant, there's Anneliese, a nine-year-old girl who lives with her alcoholic father; Yuu, a Japanese musician; and, at the center of it all, Otto Frei, a mysterious mime who lives with his quadriplegic sister, Eva, the quiet twin of the title. It is Eva who will bring the fates of all of these characters together after Zuzka discovers her, ill and uncared for, in Frei's apartment. VERDICT Working primarily through mood, atmospherics, and the general air of malevolence with which he surrounds the action, Vyleta memorably conjures up the darkness both of the times and of the Nazi mind.—Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, North Andover, MAShort Stories
Kirkus Reviews
The residents of a Viennese neighborhood intersect over illness, murder and an increasingly intimidating Nazi presence. The second novel by Canadian novelist Vyleta (Pavel & I, 2008) is purposefully claustrophobic: Taking place over the course of a few weeks in 1939, the story rarely shifts from an apartment building where everybody seems to be sick or deeply eccentric. The sole exception is Dr. Anton Beer, the novel's hero, who's soon managing the concerns of three troubled women: Zuzka, a teenager whose claims of paralysis may just be a plea for romantic attention; Lieschen, a 9-year-old whose father is an alcoholic brute; and Eva, who genuinely suffers from paralysis, with the sickening bedsores to prove it. To this discomfiting milieu Vyleta adds a supporting cast of eccentrics, including Eva's brother, a cabaret performer, and a Japanese trumpeter who's creepily observant of the neighborhood's goings-on. The core plot involves a series of murders in the area, and Beer is increasingly pestered by a Nazi investigator looking for a patsy to attach to the crimes. But this book isn't so much a murder mystery as a mood piece about how paranoia escalates as a totalitarian regime comes to power, and some of the novel's best scenes underscore Dr. Beer's anxiety as a result of the growing surveillance of the apartment. Beer doesn't quite have the depth of character to carry the novel, unfortunately; over time, his stoic demeanor makes him seem less like a defiant hero than a passive blank. But Vyleta knows how to create an oppressive atmosphere without making the prose feel bogged down, and the novel's closing chapters pick up energy, revealing the evil of the Nazis and the ability of a few committed people to push back against it. An evocative if largely grey-toned portrait of life in a new police state.
Andrew Haig Martin
Vyleta carefully lays out the elements of a traditional mystery—colorful, secretive neighbors as suspects, a corrupt police officer as a foil to the hero's investigations—and finds clever ways to subvert expectations. Though he proves adept at deploying the requisite red herrings and other plot mechanics, Vyleta's use of his historical setting emphasizes a broader point about the way Nazism perverted justice and decency on even the smallest scale.
—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608198085
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 2/14/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Dan Vyleta is the son of Czech refugees who emigrated to Germany in the late 1960s. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge. His first novel, Pavel & I, was published to international acclaim. He lives in Wisconsin.

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