Why Join?

  • Add New Books

  • Write a Review

  • Backpack Reading Lists

  • Newsletter Updates

Join Now

Thriller set in WW2 – VIENNA

25th April 2023

The Vienna Writers Circle by J C Maetis, thriller set  in  WW2 – VIENNA.

Thriller set in the run up to WW2 - VIENNA

C J Maetis also writes as John Matthews, who has sold 1.6 million copies and been translated into 14 languages, so he is an author of quite some pedigree.

This is the story of a group of intellectuals – writers – who met regularly in a group, together with Sigmund Freud, in the Café Mozart Thriller set in the run up to WW2 - VIENNAin Vienna. Many were full or part Jewish. After Anschluss, when Germany basically attached Austria to its coat tails, the writers (as did many others) came under severe threat.

Chapter headings are often short paragraphs taken from Freud’s writing, interspersed with the the latest restrictions imposed upon the Jewish community and of course upon other minority groups. We see how their lives are incrementally diminished, regulated and terrorised, chapter by chapter, as they have to retreat and exercise care as they try and go about their daily lives. This device offers a good chronology of the focussed persecution of sections of society and it works well.

The Nazis understood that this was a primarily Jewish group and therefore became intent on tracking down the individual members. As the narrative moves on into the escalating war years, some of the characters flee – Freud headed to England – but others were not permitted to leave, and thus chose to look closer to home and resettle in other parts of Vienna, having perhaps had a touch of facial surgery and assumed new identities. Thus it is, for example, that Andreas becomes Johannes (and is subsequently referred to as Johannes-Andreas or Mathias becomes Mathias-Daniel). Does this work? It makes the characters feel complicated, which of course is what they become as a litany of restrictions and terror rains down on them.

The Nazis hunt down photos of the group, having posed together with the great man and therein they find their targets. One member is sent to Sobibór as the noose grows tighter, but there he is given a reprieve because of his writing skills.

This is a well written novel that offers a good level of suspense, historical detail and it seems well researched. But it is problematical in several ways.

In the first fifth of the novel the author chooses to pepper the text with Austrian (German) words. This stops abruptly, as though the editor has suggested he doesn’t do this any more (wisely, as there are some glaring errors). It beggars belief in this day and age that, if an author chooses to use foreign words, there is no input from a native speaking editor, especially as this is a novel published by one of the big publishing houses. A let-down for the author.

Thriller set in the run up to WW2 - VIENNAFürsteneck Kirschwasser, for example, is mentioned. It is written, however, as Fürfteneck (with an ‘f’). On the label the ‘s’ does indeed look like an ‘f’ but this is because it is written in old-style German, a common device in the German speaking countries to denote tradition and longevity of a brand. It is without doubt an “s” and not an “f”. This is SUCH a fundamental and unnecessary error that simple research would have rectified. 🤔

The author dithers on translation and offers Northwestbahnhof (it should be either German or English, not an amalgam) or “Zircus Saran” (either Circus or Zirkus, please). He refers to “Amnestie sammeln” but here sammeln is incorrectly used, denoting collecting, as in stamps rather than picking up/collect – it makes no sense in German and really Google Translate is not the answer. Out and about the authorities demand “Karten bitte” – cards, please – on public transport but that doesn’t mean anything in German, it would be Ausweis bitte or Papiere bitte. If the language usage hasn’t been thoroughly researched, what can one make of the rest of the story? Is the research there as detailed, and more to the point as accurate as it might seem?

And I wonder if the author has actually been to the Prater in Vienna? Here he describes ‘the glass cabins” of the ferris wheel, which actually are fundamentally made of wood.

The style of the novel is mixed. The writing is era appropriate for the most part and aids in transporting readers back in time, but all of a sudden there is a reference to a “snotty memo” which glaringly doesn’t fit, it’s just too 21st Century. The Prologue opens in Lublin in 1942 and then is more or less repeated later in the novel as the narrative reaches the period of the Prologue (1942), which I found really jarring and confusing.

The whole novel just needed a much tighter editing hand. As it stands, this is a good story blighted by sloppy presentation. An unnecessarily irksome read.

And just a thought. Shouldn’t it actually be The Vienna Writers’ Circle (with an apostrophe?).

Tina for the TripFiction Team

Join Team TripFiction on Social Media:

Twitter (@TripFiction), Facebook (@TripFiction.Literarywanderlust), YouTube (TripFiction #Literarywanderlust), Instagram (@TripFiction) and Pinterest (@TripFiction)

Subscribe to future blog posts

Latest Blogs

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *