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The Quiet Twin: A Novel Paperback – February 14, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* When the police show up to investigate the corpse in an apartment courtyard, they immediately tug on his hair to make sure it is not a wig. In the endlessly deceptive world Vyleta unfolds, such skepticism about appearances is essential. And no one needs such skepticism more than Herr Doktor Anton Beer, the novel’s protagonist. Accustomed to dealing with the hidden illnesses lurking in the seemingly healthy and the feigned sicknesses of malingerers, this cagy physician unexpectedly finds himself prying for clues revealing who has recently butchered a local professor’s dog and, perhaps with the same knife, also murdered four humans.Through Beer’s sharp eyes, readers peer through peepholes, stare through parted curtains, catch fugitive images in mirrors, and scan stairwells, all the while assessing the inscrutable features of the residents of a Viennese apartment complex in 1939: a paralyzed woman shrouded in mysterious secrecy; her twin, a stealthy mime; a bookish Japanese trumpet player; a reclusive widow; an attractive hypochondriac; a drunken janitor. As Vyleta weaves his taut narrative, readers strive with Beer for that acuteness of vision necessary to anticipate and explain the ominous twists of events played out in the shadow of Nazi fanaticism. Dark and disturbing, a novel of rare sophistication. --Bryce Christensen


''I was pleased to encounter the dark excitement of Dan Vyleta's The Quiet Twin . . . As in Hitchcock's Rear Window, paranoia mounts . . . [A] tense, well-wrought novel.'' --Wall Street Journal

''Vyleta carefully lays out the elements of a traditional mystery . . . and finds clever ways to subvert expectations.'' --New York Times Book Review

''[Vyleta is] the heir of the throne left empty since the death of Graham Greene. Yes, he's that damn good.'' --San Francisco Book Review

''Vyleta's second novel is truly a work of art; his deft manipulation of narrative and characters (and readers), a master class in psychological sleight of hand.'' --National Post (Toronto)

''As Vyleta weaves his taut narrative, readers strive with Beer for that acuteness of vision necessary to anticipate and explain the ominous twists of events played out in the shadow of Nazi fanaticism. Dark and disturbing, a novel of rare sophistication.'' --Booklist (starred review)

''Vyleta builds an atmosphere of fear and paranoia . . . With The Quiet Twin, he proves he's no one-book wonder.'' --Globe and Mail (Toronto)

''The novel pungently recreates the noxious ethos in which [Nazism] flourished, resembling Hitchcock's Rear Window rescripted by Dostoevsky and Kafka.'' --Sunday Times (London)

''Innocence and cunning, humour and pathos, sacrifice and cruelty -- all operate side by side in a world gone wrong in this breathtaking page-turner.'' --Winnipeg Free Press

''Vital, deftly realized characters populate Vyleta's simmering narrative . . . The Quiet Twin is a sharp and confident novel that captures the social paranoia and mistrust fomented by Nazism . . . Subtly engaging.'' --Independent (London)

''Beer is both an anomaly and the norm: a perceptive mind subdued by sour principles; a compassionate heart in a cowardly body. When push comes to shove, as it nearly always does, what good are thoughts against brute force? . . . Nimble, nuanced, fierce, scrupulous, [The Quiet Twin] makes a good case for the power of such thoughts.'' --Times Literary Supplement (London)

''A compelling rumination on watching and watchfulness, served up with Nabokovian glee.'' --Guardian (London)

''A striking, pitch-perfect, wonderfully atmospheric, and beautifully written ensemble piece that subtly portrays a society on the brink of moral collapse.'' --Sunday Telegraph (London)

''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.'' --Library Journal

''[A] captivating detective story . . . Readers will appreciate the novel's well-crafted pathos, dark humor, and chills.'' --Publishers Weekly --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (February 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608198081
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608198085
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,876,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Dan Vyleta's The Quiet Twin offers a unique perspective on the growing menace of National Socialism in Vienna in 1939. Using an ordinary apartment building and the events which affect the seemingly ordinary characters who inhabit it as a microcosm for the terrifying realities which are about to come, Vyleta creates an almost unparalleled atmosphere of fear and dread. An absorbing literary novel, which never loses its way as it progresses, it is ultimately a horror novel which out-horrors almost all others, not only because of the awful events which unfold, but because the unfolding action feels so casual and so domestic in the context of the residents' lives.

And that is the whole point. Throughout the action, each character decides in a moment of crisis, that "just this once" s/he will ignore the promises made to others and the values which have always been paramount in civilized society in favor of what works best for himself/herself at that moment. The result is a societal compromise of epic proportions, one which allows the Nazi menace to take hold. The word "Holocaust" never appears, though the psychological horror, political horror, sociological horror, and moral horror come to life in new ways as the action in this apartment house unfolds.

The murder and disembowelment of Prof. Speckstein's much-loved dog is but the first event in a series of murders at the apartment complex. Prof. Speckstein, working as a Zellenwart, a public spy for the Nazi party, has been tried and convicted of a crime, and one suspects that the dog has paid for his master's crimes. His niece Zuzka, a hypochondriac, spends many of her nights looking out the back windows of the complex and into the apartments around her, where she observes Otto Frei, a young mime, who practices at 3:00 a.m.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau on June 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
The year is Vienna 1939, just after the beginning of the war. The setting is an apartment block built around a courtyard. The geography of this block is all important, and though the author takes pains to describe its layout, its corridors and stairs, one longs for a kind of map to see how all the apartments relate to each other; but the sinister, warren-like nature of the building is clear enough.

The actors are the people living in the block. In one apartment live Anton Beer, a young doctor. Another apartment is divided into two: Professor Speckstein, now a Nazi Zellenwart (block supervisor and informer) and his housekeeper Frau Vesalius live in one part, and his niece Zuzka in another. On the ground floor live the drunken Tobias Grotter and his deformed but very active nine-year old daughter Anneliese. A taciturn janitor has a workshop in the basement. On the top floor lives Herr Yuu, a Japanese trumpeter. With the exception of Beer and perhaps Professor Speckstein, these and other characters are rather grotesque, and all the residents in the block are interlocked in incidents which are rather odd, falling just short of being surrealistic.

There have been killings - Speckstein's dog, and, in the neighbourhood, three men and a woman, all known to be Nazis. Speckstein gives Beer, who had once published material about forensic psychology, a file containing photographs of these incidents, and hopes that Beer, whom he had described in his report to the authorities as "a humanist in internal emigration", can help the Nazi police with his insights into the killer or killers. The Nazi policeman, Teuben, is particularly arrogant and repellent. There are references to the still secret Nazi policy of killing people with serious handicaps.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull on October 10, 2015
Format: Paperback
Dan Vyleta’s brilliant, darkly comic, horribly menacing The Quiet Twin, for sure shows his Slavic roots. Vyleta is the child of Czech refugees who emigrated to Germany in the late 1960s. He now lives in Canada – but his writing, its menace, its unexplained weirdness, its mixture of brutal savagery and unexpected tenderness, reminds me of Kafka – and also of Gogol.

The Quiet Twin is set in Vienna, in 1939. And the setting is in a place of menace, through historical time and place, although there is the whisper of Vienna’s more cultured, classier history overlaid. However the arts have now turned bawdier, edgier, and primal desires have sprung free from refinement.

As I read, I could clearly visualise the paintings of German expressionist Georg Grosz, and also hear the songs of Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler, in their collaborations with Bertholt Brecht. The paintings, the songs, and this novel are all full of savagery, discordance and a brutal vitality as well

Set largely in a tenement square of flats, the story starts when Doctor Beer, a kindly and well-meaning, (generally) man (though one with some secrets), whose wife has recently left him – we will discover why, later – is asked to investigate the murder of a dog, by a former professional mentor, Professor Speckstein. Speckstein, in this watchful, paranoid society, is a Nazi Party member. Beer is striving to avoid allegiance, in an atmosphere of growing totalitarianism. Speckstein also has things to hide. Everyone does. There have been, and continue to be, addictional, random seeming murders, mainly by knifing, and there seems to be a connection which suggests that the victims are Party members – or might that be one of the many red herrings?
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