31 March 2015

Review #178: The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The world is full enough of hurts and mischances without wars to multiply them.” 

----J.R.R. Tolkien

Dan Vyleta, a Czech author, has penned a thrilling and compelling novel called, The Crooked Maid which is set across Vienna and traces two unraveling mysteries that somehow shook up almost the entire nation with it's outcome.


Vienna, 1948. The war is over, and as the initial phase of de-Nazification winds down, the citizens of Vienna struggle to rebuild their lives amidst the rubble.

Anna Beer returns to the city she fled nine years earlier after discovering her husband's infidelity. She has come back to find him and, perhaps, to forgive him. Traveling on the same train from Switzerland is 18-year-old Robert Seidel, a schoolboy summoned home to his stepfather's sickbed and the secrets of his family's past.

As Anna and Robert navigate an unrecognizable city, they cross paths with a war-widowed American journalist, a hunchbacked young servant girl, and a former POW whose primary purpose is to survive by any means and to forget. Meanwhile, in the shells of burned-out houses and beneath the bombed-out ruins, a ghost of a man, his head wrapped in a red scarf, battles demons from his past and hides from a future deeply uncertain for all.

Two people meet on the train heading towards their home city- Vienna. The war has just ended and the city is on the brink of cold war, the condition of Vienna is very grim with people overcrowding the city, soldiers returning back from their prison- in short, a city in ruins! Robert is returning back from his school in Switzerland to his mother and his step-father, whereas Anna is heading back to the city after 10years to meet her husband who just returned from the prison in Russia.
Two lives intermingle with common attraction, entwined mystery surrounding both these characters- missing husband and murdered step-father and lot of back-story about those characters who are surrounding their lives. But there's another mystery-which is bit nerve-wracking to figure that out, which is about a family- Rothman family, with whom, Robert's step-brother did a deal to purchase their factory and the estate owned by Robert's family. And the mystery was whether the communication and the contact with the Rothman family is real or not, whether they really exist or not is another part of the mystery in this book. They why crooked maid? Well, there is one interesting character in the book, who is connected to all the three parts of the mystery. And for that you need to read this book.

The author only takes us back down the memory lane to the destroyed city of Vienna after the end of war in the year 1948. But we don't see Vienna from the eyes of the author or through his detailing or portrayal of the city, instead we feel the dreadfulness of Vienna lurking in the air through the eyes of the characters.

The characters are the building blocks of mystery, plot, back-drop etc in this book. Yes, the author had that psychological grip on his flawed yet brilliant characters thus making their imperfections fall for them. But in someway, I felt, the characters are bit heavy with all their deep and mystifying back-stories to support their reasons of every act. Complicated? Yes, totally, which made the plot bit confusing enough for us. Each and every other character in the book are some how related to one another, this where the confusion lies. Robert, Anna and Eva are the central characters in the book and they are quite appealing in their demeanor moreover the author have featured them brilliantly. There is a huge cast of other characters which play an equally important role like those central characters. The author's narrative style is crisp and eloquent layered with the on-going events surrounding the city.

Overall, this multi-layered historical thriller is intriguing as well as captivated, but not that engaging instead the events and the characters will keep you on the loop.

Verdict: This book may appeal to the non-traditional thriller fans.

Courtesy: Many thanks to the author, Dan Vyleta, for providing me with a copy of his book, in return for an honest review. 

Author Info:
Dan Vyleta is the son of Czech refugees who emigrated to Germany in the late 1960s. After growing up in Germany, he left to attend university in the UK where he completed a Ph.D. in History at King’s College, University of Cambridge. He now calls Canada his home. When not reading or writing novels, Dan Vyleta watches cop shows, or listens to CDs from his embarrassingly large collection of Jazz albums. An inveterate migrant, Dan Vyleta was last seen in the Great Lakes region.
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1 comment:

  1. I have read a lot of books about during world war 2 but not so many about the recovery of what happens to the people afterwards. Which definitely makes this one unique!


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