Rear window

Curious characters and a sinuous plot set the tone for this novel that examines the anxious social milieu of Nazi Vienna in 1939

The Quiet Twin, by Dan Vyleta, Bloomsbury RRP£7.99, 384 pages

After his wry debut of espionage in austere, postwar Berlin, Dan Vyleta’s confident second novel explores the anxious social milieu of Nazi Vienna in 1939. Professor Speckstein, a disgraced academic and Nazi informer, coerces his affable neighbour Dr Beer into investigating local murders – including the butchery of his pet hound. But Zuzka, Speckstein’s nervous and excitable niece, is pursuing her own inquiry into the fate of the family pooch.

Zuzka’s naive snooping twitches the curtains of the tenement’s variously seedy inhabitants, most of whom – the Japanese trumpeter, the nightclub mime artist, the janitor with a bath full of blood, and Beer himself – are keen to avoid Nazi attention. Vyleta skilfully builds this into a boisterous, darkly comic climax. Curious characters and a sinuous plot that holds the subtlest resonance of the dithering and political malaise of Hamlet give this mild-mannered novel a sharp edge. Vyleta’s command of period adds to the uneasy tone.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

More on this topic

Suggestions below based on Fiction

A land overlooked

Jon McGregor’s new piece, ‘This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You’, is a collection of short stories that explores a little-known region of England

Picture of happiness

Julie Otsuka’s ‘The Buddha in the Attic’ recounts the experiences of the 20,000 Japanese brides betrothed to photographs

Darkness and the divide

In her powerful debut collection ‘Drifting House’, Krys Lee takes an unflinching look at the reality of life on both sides of divided Korea

Making sense of grief

Agnès Desarthe’s first English novel ‘The Foundling’ questions how adults and children alike survive emotional pain

A quirky mash-up

This postmodern New York Jewish comedy-cum-love story is a readable and poignant exploration of the roads not taken