How did I stumble across The Crooked Maid? I don’t remember exactly what I was doing but I think I was looking up something about The Quiet Twin, and found it on author Dan Vyleta’s website.
I had no idea that Vyleta had revisited Vienna, this time after the war in 1948, and bought the book immediately. It was the ebook version too, so it was near instant gratification. I started reading it that day.
The Crooked Maid isn’t a sequel to The Quiet Twin, exactly, but it does revisit some of the same places and characters. Anna Beer, wife of Dr. Anton Beer, who we met in the previous novel, is back in Vienna after separating from Beer before the war, but when she arrives back at the apartment she shared with her husband, he is nowhere to be found and in his place is a large stranger, Karel Neumann, who claimed to know Beer during the war.
Anna seems to be something of a fading femme fatale; the kind of woman men can’t resist but whose beauty, while still formidable, is beginning to fade with age. She’s smart and street saavy and quite capable of taking care of herself. Overall, she’s my favorite female character in both books.
Robert Seidel, whose first encounter with Anna opens the novel, is on his way home from boarding school to see his family when his stepfather is hospitalized after mysteriously falling out a window. When he dies, Robert’s brother, Wolfgang, a former SS officer, is charged in his death.
Eva, the hunchback maid of the title and working for the wealthy Seidels, is also interested in finding Dr. Beer.
And Vienna is working desperately at denazification, trying to purge itself of signs of its dark past, and convince the world, and itself, that it was a reluctant participant to the horrors of the Nazi regime rather than its willing cohort.
Unlike The Quiet Twin, there were likable characters in this book and the ending wasn’t nearly as bitter, although things didn’t work out quite the way I wanted them to. Ok, they worked out nothing like I wanted them to, but I guess that’s good right? I always complain about books and movies where I figure out the ending. Why should this be any different?
I did figure out Dr. Beer’s fate early on, though. I still liked the story, and getting to that point though, so that’s a plus.
As with the The Quiet Twin, I highly recommend The Crooked Maid. It can be slow in spots but gets better and better as it goes on and was a contender for my favorite book of 2016.
As a side note for anyone considering picking up the book, you don’t have to read The Quiet Twin before you read The Crooked Maid, but I recommend it. You will pick up a lot of extra info that makes finding little Easter eggs in The Crooked Maid more enjoyable.