The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta

Adult Fiction Pick by Jean-Louis

crooked(HarperCollins, 2013)

If you haven’t yet heard of Dan Vyleta, you haven’t been following he book prizes over the last few years. His last novel, The Quiet Twin, was nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust award and his current novel was up for the Giller Prize this year. I finally made time to read him and was not disappointed.

The Crooked Maid is set in Vienna in the aftermath of the war. Two characters, Anna Beer and Robert Seidel, meet on a train and re-enter the city after years away. Their task is to catch up to the events of the city and their families–but both the city and the family life has been thrown into disarray by the war and reconstruction. Vyleta leads us on a Dickensian tour through the back alleys, cellars, drawing rooms and court rooms of Vienna in this novel which is at times macabre and always gripping.

Each of the characters in the novel is at the task of trying to find out what adds up, to determine who is the bad guy, who is responsible, what is the new reality, and how to move forward. Vyleta’s novel is shot through with dark corners and dark characters whose identities are in flux in an era of de-nazification. The levels of intrigue are international, city-wide, and most perilously personal.

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