Summary and book reviews of The Quiet Twin by Dan Vyleta

The Quiet Twin

A Novel

By Dan Vyleta

The Quiet Twin
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  • Paperback: Feb 2012,
    384 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Mark James

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Book Summary

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.

Paperback original

The Quiet Twin

"You were with Zuzka last night," she said. "I saw you. It was quite late. You were standing by the window."

She said it quite simply, as a statement of fact, but he blushed nonetheless before that name - "Zuzka" - and the familiarity it implied. He felt the janitor's gaze upon him, curious now, one of his wrists rising to rub at his jawbone, then higher up, along the ear.

"A patient call," the doctor explained more to him than to the girl, too hastily perhaps, his own voice pedantic in his ears. "She has been unwell."

"Speckstein's niece? Aye, I've heard such a thing." The janitor let go of the paddle he was holding, simply tossed it on the floor, and scratched himself properly now, at the chin and above the ear. The doctor wondered whether it was possible he carried lice.

"She seemed upset about her uncle's dog," Beer said. "Apparently it has been killed."

"Killed? Gutted, more like."

The little girl heard the old man's answer and followed ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. A central theme to the novel is surveillance and observation. How much of the story is left up to the reader's imagination? How does this create tension?
  2. Dan Vyleta says in his author's note: 'Sixty-five years after the Second World War it is easy for most of us to convince ourselves that we could never have belonged amongst those who would have held wrong-headed beliefs; it is a more nagging question to wonder what one might have done in order to secure more modicum and material success.' Discuss the moral stature of Professor Speckstein, Doctor Beer and Teuben in light of this comment.
  3. How does the novel convey a brutalisation and destruction of innocence? Discuss with particular reference to the experiences of Lieschen, Eva and ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Although ostensibly a murder mystery, the deaths in The Quiet Twin pale in comparison to the intrigue created by Vyleta's characters, all struggling for survival under the threat of Nazi persecution, all with something to hide.   (Reviewed by Mark James).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Vyleta 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.

Library Journal

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.

Kirkus Reviews

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.

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Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals and People with Disabilities During WWII

In 1938, the Nazis annexed Austria in what is known as the Anschluss, the "link-up" or "union". In their pursuit of a "pure" Aryan master race, they immediately began arresting anyone of difference or who might oppose them, especially Jews. According to the Vienna City Administration website, Nazi-incited pogroms in November 1938 essentially obliterated Jewish culture in Vienna.

When Dan Vyleta's The Quiet Twin begins, most of Vienna's Jews had already been deported or had fled. In one scene, he leads the reader through an abandoned house; the Jewish owners had "left... gone since winter." The edifice is an apocalyptic urbanscape with "broken windows and shattered light bulbs, angry slogans scrawled across the floor." The main ...

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