The Crooked Maid Paperback – 16 Jan 2014
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Vyleta writes with the sharp, brutal clarity of cinematic freeze frames . Noir meets Gothic - a thrilling tale of war crimes, family secrets, murder and blackmail (Independent)
The atmosphere of postwar Europe, still seething with animosity, is wonderfully evoked and the tangled plot is thrilling (The Times)
This is not your typical thriller ... it is not the twists and turns of the plot that will keep readers turning the pages. It is the atmosphere Vyleta builds up, line by line, of a world of secrets threatening to fall down on the characters' heads at any moment (Irish Examiner)
A literary thriller that is so dripping in atmosphere you half expect Orson Welles to come creeping out of the shadows ... A dark tale of intrigue, interconnected mysteries, hunger, guilt, patricide and revenge. Packed with literary and cinematic references, with a complex plot and a cast of credible characters, this is a seriously good novel from a seriously fine writer (Novel of the Week, Mail on Sunday)
The writing is often stunning. Vyleta's similes are memorable ... Vivid details litter the pages ... The imagery is cinematic, reminiscent of film noir, with exaggerated shadows, and light and shade dancing on walls and wan faces ... This is a compelling novel with all the verve and atmosphere of an Alfred Hitchcock film (Leyla Sanai, Independent on Sunday)
Impressive ... This is not just the past: it is the past as seen fractured and magnified through a lens. It is a place of unremitting strangeness, as real and as true to its own logic as those of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go or Tom McCarthy's Remainder . It has the darkness and seductive excitement of a Metropolis, or a Cabinet of Dr Caligari. You enter it sideways, and your head spins (Esi Edugyan, Guardian)
A literary novel that reads like a spy thriller (Metro)
Graham Greene meets Dostoevsky in a thrilling and atmospheric story of guilt and restitution, set in post-war Vienna. From the author of Pavel & I and The Quiet TwinSee all Product description
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This can be read as a stand-alone book as it’s not a sequel as such, but it would mean more if you’d read the previous one.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and will look out for more by the author.
Robert finds his father dead and his brother, Wolfgang, on a murder charge (from which he is later, somewhat questionably, exonerated). His mother has become a drug addict and they live with the hunchbacked (but attractive to Robert) Eva – the crooked maid of the title – and Poldi, Wolfgang’s pregnant wife.
Anna returns to her apartment and finds evidence of recent occupation – though no occupiers in evidence until Karel, a vast and bumbling drunk appears and lets himself in with a key… claiming he had been give it by Anna’s husband with whom he says he was in the POW camp.
The third strand of the story concerns the Jewish Rothman family with whom Seidel senior did a deal at the beginning of the War – to buy outright both the factory they jointly owned and the apartment the Seidels live in, with the consideration that they could re-purchase either at any time in the future. Is the family dead or alive – are the communications the Seidels receive from them genuine, or not?
These three very different stories – Wolfgang’s trial, Anna’s search for her husband, and the Rothman mystery – are all bound together by Eva. I will say no more!
At one level, The Crooked Maid, is an exciting and suspenseful tale of intrigue and double dealing in a city recovering from the War. But it is a great deal more than this – it is a BIG book with BIG characters. Vyleta captures the feel of a dark and foreboding city and its shadowy inhabitants. All the main characters have wartime experiences (Wolfgang, for example, was a Gestapo officer…) from which they are trying to run or pretend did not exist. The book is like a Russian novel in its scope.
I honestly found the book a tad confusing as I read it, and found inclusions which I did not think added anything to the story. But (and it’s a big but…) the story has returned to me several times in the days since I finished it – it is a work that is very definitely thought provoking and draws you in.
I would recommend it.
Robert Seidel's return to his family home is no more reassuring than Anna's; his drug-addicted mother does not seem to know what is going on around her, his stepbrother, Wolfgang, has been accused of pushing Robert's stepfather out of his study window and is incarcerated in prison, and since Robert last saw Wolfgang, his stepbrother has married, and his wife, Poldi, now lies in her sickbed in the squalor of the once beautiful Seidel home. The only person Robert can turn to is the family maid, Eva, a young woman with a twisted spine, but how much does Eva know and what will she do with her knowledge? And who is the mysterious red-scarfed man haunting the streets around Robert's home? Who is he watching and what does he want? (No spoilers, we learn all of this fairly early on in the novel).
Skilfully written and vivid in its imagery, Dan Vyleta's third novel is a dark and claustrophobic psychological thriller and is an unsettling and, at times, a rather macabre tale. Very atmospheric (think film noir) with its descriptions of war-torn Vienna and its bombed-out buildings where "Men and women walk the streets, hungry, threadbare, dressed in shabby clothes; blind to the pock-marked beauty of a capital whose empire had been mislaid", this is a compelling tale of war crimes, guilt, deception, blackmail and family secrets; it's also an interesting exploration of morals and, although not a very pleasant story, it's one that drew me in from the first page and kept me engrossed until the end.
Please note: Some of the characters in this novel have appeared in Dan Vyleta's previous book: The Quiet Twin- which I can recommend. However 'The Crooked Maid' is not a sequel, as such, and can be read independently to the 'The Quiet Twin'.
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