Des Teufels Maskerade is a novel by Victoria Schlederer [German].
Finished on: 2.10.2015
Prague in the beginning of the 20th century. Dejan Sirco works as a private investigator for occult affairs together with his apprentice Mirko, his friend Lysander Sutcliffe, whose spirit happens to reside in the body of an otter and has done so for quite a while, and often with the help of sex worker Esther. Dejan’s old friend Felix Trubic comes back into his life and with a case no less: there’s a curse on his family and if Dejan can’t solve it, Felix will be dead soon. But there is more to this curse than just a family affair – from vampires to political upheaval.
There are a lot of things to like about this book – not the least of which is that it was written by an Austrian and that it’s setting is rather unusual for a fantasy novel, but altogether it felt more meh than anything else.
I was intrigued by the set-up of the novel. Possessed otters, vampires and a setting that isn’t English/USAmerican? Count me in. When it turned out that Dejan [SPOILERS] is bisexual [/SPOILERS], I was even more taken with it. We don’t get enough characters like that.
But unfortunately the novel couldn’t quite keep the promises of the set-up. The first half or so dragged – although the book finally picked up some steam towards the end and it never got so slow that I seriously considered not continuing to read.
Even more irritating than the pacing was the writing style though. On the one hand I didn’t buy the diary structure – nobody writes diary like this, even when you account for making it more literary since it’s not actually a diary. On the other hand the way the dialogues were written, I constantly read them with the wrong subtext and was then flabbergasted by people’s reactions to them. I’ve already experienced it before with other writers, so it’s not exactly Schlederer’s fault, it’s just faulty communication between the two of us – but it is irritating nevertheless.
I also thought that the novel lacked women. There are only two in it that get more than a couple of pages of attention, and even those two are not really integral parts to a story that is all about the men (and one of them has to be a sex worker). I don’t think that the book passes the Bechdel-Wallace-Test and that’s always disappointing.
I had fun while the book lasted and I don’t regret reading it, but I knew I wouldn’t be keeping it and I have no desire to pick up the follow-up novel Schlederer has written in the meantime.
Summarizing: It’s okay, but you don’t need to read it.