1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Intense, Intriguing, Unsettling,
This review is from: The Quiet Twin (Paperback)
This is a particularly good novel by a very clever storyteller; it is heavy with atmosphere and suspense; it is quite menacing and, in places, rather macabre.
We are in wartime Vienna, it is autumn and Dr Beer, who holds a general surgery in his suburban tenement, is called to the bedside of a neighbour's niece. The young woman, Zuzka, does not appear to be genuinely ill, but once Beer is in her room she leads him to the window, showing him a view of their apartment block that Beer has never seen before or even considered. Zuzka directs Beer's attention across the courtyard up into the rooms of Annelise, the nine-year-old hunch-backed daughter of an alcoholic and, it is into this room, and the rooms of the other occupants that the story unfolds. In another part of the building there lives an enigmatic mime artist, Otto, who comes home in the early hours, with his painted white face and his air of furtive secrecy; there is Otto's beautiful twin sister, Eva, who suffers from a strange, unidentified paralysis; in the garret room lives a pock-faced, Japanese trumpet player and, in the basement, there is the inscrutable janitor who appears to be doing something unsavoury in the basement's environs. Zuzka tells Beer about the killing of her uncle's dog and she asks him if he knows anything about the brutal murders that have started to happen in the immediate vicinity of the building. It was at this point that I was reminded of Hitchcock's 'Rear Window', but this novel is much more gritty and bleak, capturing the paranoia and mistrust of the times - of the war and of Nazism.
Against his wishes, Beer becomes involved with the police investigation into the murders, whilst desperately trying to keep elements of his personal life private. And Anton Beer has good reasons for wishing to keep his life out of public scrutiny, for he has inclinations that the Nazis would find deviant.
I don't wish to give too much information away in this review, but I found this book to be not so much of a murder mystery or a thriller, but more a story of suspense and intrigue and I found whilst reading it that I wasn't really trying to work out who had committed the murders, but was trying to understand the motives behind the actions of the main characters. And who is the quiet twin? The immediate response might be Eva, the paralytic mute, but there is also her brother Otto, the mime artist who is totally silent during his performances, and later we find that Zuzka has a dead twin sister to whom she writes letters that will never be answered. And, as a backdrop which cannot be ignored, there is the rise of the Nazi regime, where thousands had to remain silent onlookers to the horrors unfolding before their eyes.
This novel is dark in tone; it is claustrophobic and, in places, almost menacing. The author is very explicit in his descriptions of character and of place and he really draws the reader in - maybe to places a lot of us would not want to go personally. If you are squeamish, you won't relish some of the scenes depicted in this book, but this is a particularly good novel and one that held me totally absorbed throughout.