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The Crooked Maid: A Novel Hardcover – August 6, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160819809X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608198092
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,381,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Novels about post-WWII Europe offer fascinating possibilities. Political lines are being redrawn, societies are rebuilding from the rubble, and chickens are coming home to roost. The Crooked Maid focuses on a group of characters converging on Vienna after a long absence. Anton Beer is headed home after years in a Russian POW camp. His estranged wife, Anna, is coming from Paris to meet him. The young man Robert, who shares Anna’s train, is coming home after his stepfather has fallen—or been pushed—from a high window. These and many other characters are drawn together at the trial of Robert’s stepbrother, accused of pushing his father, and by the search for Anton, who has gone missing. The novel has some trappings of a murder mystery but is more of a psychological novel, as the characters—from the eponymous crippled maid to the war-enriched matriarch—try to ferret out the truth from others while guarding their own secrets. This novel conjures up the stifling atmosphere of shame and deception of the postwar period and hints at escape through Vienna’s own “talking cure”—openness and honesty. --Lynn Weber

Review

Gracefully executed... Dramatic. (The New York Times Book Review)

A true storyteller who is also a prose stylist. (The National Post)

Conveys the sparse, foreboding mood of Poe or Dostoevsky... Vyleta masterfully weaves his characters together in the light and shadow of war-torn Vienna. (Shelf Awareness, starred review)

A psychological novel . . . [It] conjures up the stifling atmosphere of shame and deception of the postwar period. (Booklist)

Customer Reviews

A good ending to both the book and the series.
Jill Meyer
The characters are all well depicted, even though I found none of them really convincing, their reactions or the relationships between them even less so.
Ralph Blumenau
I gave up trying to guess the end about half-way through the book; I admit, the end wasn't what I expected.
Angie Lisle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
(4.5 stars) Setting his latest novel in Vienna in 1948, nine years after the setting for his previous novel, The Quiet Twin, author Dan Vyleta continues the story of the city and some of its characters in the aftermath of the Holocaust's atrocities, though this novel stands alone and is not really a sequel. Vyleta does use several repeating characters to show how they have changed in the nine years that have elapsed since The Quiet Twin, set in 1939, but he introduces them in new contexts and illustrates their changed lives, which makes them fresh and intriguing to all readers. By 1948, these characters have been dramatically affected by war's horrors, by imprisonment (in some cases), by living as refugees in other countries, and by the cumulative trauma of a city which has been in the grips of unimaginable evil and now finds itself uncertain of its values and its future.

Though this novel does involve murders, Dan Vyleta transcends genre, his writing more similar to that of Dostoevsky than to pop fiction. The mysteries and murders that take place during this mesmerizing and fully-developed novel grow out of the moral vacuum in Vienna after the war, the macabre details of these crimes so deeply rooted in the city's psyche that they feel almost "normal." Vienna's citizens, fearing retribution from a variety of sources, now freely ignore their crimes and even deny their co-operation during the Nazi occupation, or as one character notes, "We are a people who have already forgiven themselves."

The novel opens with a woman of about forty, Anna Beer, returning by train to Vienna, after being away for nine years. She has just learned that her husband, Dr. Anton Beer, has been released and is returning from a Soviet prison camp.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gazza16 on October 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
What I like in the first hundred pages is the precision in the writing, the meticulous detail in his descriptions which afford great pleasure line by line. He doesn't strike a false note, he builds up a sense of character steadily layer by layer. The prose deserves and rewards close attention. When the characters come to life sufficiently and the context is so dramatic as post second world war Vienna I hardly care where the story is going, it is quite satisfying enough en route, we might say getting there is more than half the fun. There is sufficient intelligence at work here that one develops a sense of trust - that the denouement will be as cleverly constructed and pleasurable and plausible as the writing is page by page.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau on March 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The book opens in 1948, with Anna Beer on a train to Vienna to meet her husband Anton who had been a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union, but who has had an affaire after his return from captivity. Young Robert Seidel is in the same compartment: he has been at a boarding school in Switzerland and will rejoin his mother and step-father in Vienna. (Readers of Vyleta’s earlier novel, The Quiet Twin, which was set in 1939 - see my Amazon review - will realize that they have met Anton Beer and Robert’s late father, Franz Teuben, before. But this novel can stand alone even if one has not read its predecessor). When they arrive at their respective goals, there is a sense of strangeness, even eeriness, about the apartments. Anna finds that her husband is not there, though someone else is. Robert finds the door being opened to him by “the crooked maid”, the deformed Eva Frei. We already know that her employer, Robert’s mother, found her sinister - and we have met Eva, too, in the earlier novel: there she was the eponymous quiet twin. And your memory is right if it tells you that the deformed girl in the earlier novel had a different name. All will be explained in due course: it is one of several mysteries - whose was the corpse so gruesomely described? who was the man in the red scarf? - that haunt so much of the book.

The characters are all well depicted, even though I found none of them really convincing, their reactions or the relationships between them even less so. It is a tribute to the quality of the writing that, despite this, the sinister atmosphere is such that I, at any rate, wanted to keep on reading. Crows flap around in a macabre fashion. A stuffed dead crow is given a marble eye. Robert has a damaged eye. The afore-mentioned corpse had a glass eye.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Crooked Maid", by Dan Vylenta, is not a particularly easy read. It is set in post-war Vienna and is the sequel to Vylenta's previous book, "The Quiet Twin". Normally I'd advise reading the first novel in a series before reading the second, but in this case, each could be stand-alone novels. While many characters continue from one book to the other, a good knowledge of the first book isn't needed to read and appreciate the second.

Vienna in 1948 was a cold, frightening place. Like Germany, Austria had been cut up into "Allied zones" after the war, but unlike Germany, Austria was finally reunited in 1955 when the four allied powers recognised an Austrian-led government. In 1948, Austrian soldiers who had been captured and held in Soviet prisoner-of-war camps were returning home. They had not been released at war's end in 1945, and, actually some Austrians were held and not released until the early 1950's. But upon returning home, these soldiers were integrated into the social system in haphazard ways. In Vylenta's novel, not only do some Austrian soldiers return to Vienna, but so do a 30ish woman - Anna Beer - and a young man she meets on the Paris/Vienna train. Both had ties to Vienna and both had lived for a few years in France. Anna was returning to see her estranged husband, Dr Anton Beer, and young Robert Seidel was returning to the home of his mother and step-father.

But both Anna Beer and Robert Seidel have left ghosts back in Vienna and each is confronted by problems when they return to the city. Dr Beer, who had been looking forward to reuniting with his wife - or at least trying to face their problems - is not at the apartment to meet his returning wife. He's missing after having returned to Vienna from the Soviet prisoner-of-war camp.
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