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.
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 ...
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).
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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