The Quiet Twin by Dan Vyleta is about the reasons we speak and the reasons we stay quiet.
The book set in Vienna at the wake of WWII centres around the lives of people living in an apartment block. The narrative pivots around a string of murders that have occurred in the apartment’s vicinity. The solving of the crimes leaves the community nervous as the Nazis infiltrate the city’s police force. The pro-party detectives intend to solve the crimes to prove their control over all matters of Vienna.
The characters that make up this fast read are connected to each other because they live in close proximity to each other. As fellow apartment dwellers with windows that face a central courtyard, they can see into neighbours windows and draw inferences and theories about the people they live beside.
Vyleta reveals the world of has dangerous consequences when much of our day-to-day interactions with people are bases on inferences and theories. As the story progresses, Vyleta does a striking job of carrying the people through the plot and each are a metaphor for the reasons humans stay quiet and hidden from the truth.
Some people are privy to real information about the murders, but they choose to remain quiet. One of the characters is afraid of being discovered as different in a society that praises conformity. Another character is paralyzed because she was abused as a child and it traumatized her. Another person is angry. A different character is afraid of being insignificant.
This book explores why individuals keep quiet, even if there are injustices. Often the reasons are selfish, but in many ways instinctive. People are worried to be found out or have our own secret’s exposed. The most memorable character for me, was Dr. Anton Beer. A man who quit his psychiatry practise in order to pursue quieter and less noticeable (under the Nazi regime) means of medicine. He is an enigma,and his quietness and secretiveness is an insightful theory as to why sensitive and intelligent people could let crimes against humanity occur.
Vyleta’s writing is smooth and easy like a nice cold beer. Someone who appreciates literary novels would enjoy this book, but it would also be enjoyed by fans of fast paced mystery novels. The characters were complex and engrossing.
Dan Vyleta is a historian and a writer. My favourite description of himself is that he is an inveterate migrant. I believe he lives in Toronto. The Quiet Twin is his second novel, and was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. It gets a giant: READ IT from me!