The Crooked Maid
The characters of international historian Dan Vyleta’s third novel inhabit the complex, war-ravaged geography of 1948 Vienna. Vyleta’s novel is part murder mystery, part courtroom drama, part tragedy, part love story, and all of it compelling.
The eponymous maid is not, as the title might suggest, the villain of the story but rather a malformed young woman who works for the wealthy Seidels, a family with dark secrets. Gudrun Anna Beer, whose first meeting with Robert Seidel opens the book, searches for her missing husband while Robert Seidel attempts to discover how his stepfather fell from the window of his study. Meanwhile, the crooked maid also wants to know the whereabouts of Anton Beer, the American widow wants to publish a story about Beer, and an itinerant giant named Karel Neumann claims to have seen Beer.
Interwoven in this plot are details about the depredations suffered by German prisoners-of-war as well as those suffered by the Russians, the similarities striking for their inhumanity. No one in this city, where denazification represents the city’s attempt to purge its dark past, is untouched by that past; innocence is a rare thing. A great read of an often-explored era from the side of those who lost the war.