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The Pied Piper's Poison Hardcover – 1 Jun 2000

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Hardcover, 1 Jun 2000
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 298 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books (1 Jun. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585670138
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585670130
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,543,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christopher Wallace is communications director of a major public sector organisation and former managing director of a leading advertising agency employed on successive government advertising campaigns. His first novel, The Pied Piper's Poison (Flamingo, 1998), won wide acclaim and the Saltire First Book of the Year 1998. He is also the author of The Resurrection Club (Flamingo, 2000) and The Pirate (Flamingo, 2001) and lives in Edinburgh.

Christopher's novel, Killing the Messenger was published in 2013 by Freight.

Product Description


‘Quite simply stunning.’
Brian Davis, Time Out

‘Assured, ambitious… The novel’s true achievement lies in its depiction of the chaos, despair, and privations which poisoned both victors and vanquished in the aftermath of the Second World War… a fascinating first novel.’
Michael Arditti, The Times

‘Wallace’s fine debut novel taps straight into the murderous black heart of the age… highly ambitious and stunningly successful.’
Peter Whittaker, Independent

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Winter 1648 and the town of Hamelin is struggling to survive the most savage war Europe has ever known. Besieged by a vicious army, confounded by the endless machinations of its leaders, gripped by starvation, disease and vermin, Hamelin is desperate for any respite from its suffering.

Winter 1946, and in the aftermath of another apocalyptic war, strange things are happening at Tarutz quarantine camp in southern Poland where a group of unknown refugees travelling west have fallen victim to a horrific, unidentifiable disease. Robert Watt, a callow, barely-qualified young doctor is hastily despatched to find the source of the mystery affliction, now working its way through the refugees with a terrible savagery.

However, his quest is met with indifference from Arthur Lee, the secretive English surgeon, and with confusion from Geigy, the Soviet camp doctor, and in a political landscape which thrives on treachery and mutual distrust, Robert finds he must work alone in the search for a cure. As he fumbles through his work, ‘drowning in the quicksand of compassion’ , Robert not only must come to terms with some painful facts about himself, but also is faced with the sinister and staggering truth behind the mystery illness.

In a novel of uncommon intelligence and confidence, Christopher Wallace tells the truth behind the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and of the devils and demons whose ghosts patrol the great European plain ready to seize their moment whenever chaos invites them in.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 8 July 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is two stories in one, starting off as separate entities, getting closer, becoming entwined, inseparable at the end.
In the winter of 1946 young medical doctor Robert Watt is sent to Germany to screen refugees heading for the west for physical fitness. He is totally overtaxed by this task. It doesn't help that his roommate, Dr Arthur Lee, a highly skilled surgeon, is totally absorbed by the paper he is writing and doesn't have time for his troubled colleague. This publication, examining the myth of the pied piper of Hamelin represents the second story line.
As Robert gets transferred to a refugee camp in Poland to examine the outbreak of a mysterious disease amongst it's inhabitants, both tales become closer, show parallels. When the situation in Poland leads to a climax, so does Lee's interpretation of the Hamelin mystery. In the end, both are inseparable. The solution offered is conclusive, threateningly thought provoking and very disturbing...
The Pied Piper's Poison is a highly thrilling book, for both the tales and the insight into the human psyche it offers. Terribly conclusive, his suggestions make you shudder and probe deep down into your own heart and soul. It has an inescapably depressive air about it, not only because of the story lines, based in World War II and the Thirty Year War, but mainly because of the way Wallace portrays his characters, shows their struggle and inner torment. The protagonist doesn't grow from his experiences but is broken by them. And so are all the other figures, inextricably caught in the abyss of their souls.
This book comes highly recommended by me. From the first page I was hooked, lost in the depressing existence in a refugee camp or the cruel, threatening world of the Thirty Year War. I admire Wallace's skill in connecting these two scenarios and turn them into one as well as his insight into the darker regions of the human existence.
Food for thought.
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Format: Paperback
Europe's centre has been the scene of may of history's most brutal episodes. The landscape of mud and mountain, of forest and barren plains, has long been a home to war and plague and paranoia.

Christopher Wallace chooses to twine together two of the region's darkest episodes - the savage conflict of the Thirty Years' War and the neurotic shift from the bloody end of the Second World War into the draining grind of the Cold War.

These grimy, rain-soaked moments in time are linked through a set of refugees quarantined in a Russian camp - perhaps the descendants of German ancestors, exiled from their homeland for centuries. The group comes under the care, or at least study, of a naive Scottish doctor, Robert Watt, seconded to aid the US army in assessing the condition of those seeking entry to Germany from the East. He is given the task of ascertaining the cause of Condition Six, the mysterious, appalling, ever-fatal disease that runs rife among the refugees.

The story of Watt's fumbling, failing quest - and his fumbling, failing dealings with his fellow human beings - is paired with the dark tale of the true origins of the story of the Pied Piper, a story that may be linked to the refugees themselves.

The result of these intertwining tales is a fascinating, eery story, told in line of elegant simplicity. A thought-provoking read with a bleak warning for humanity at its heart.
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Format: Paperback
An excellent writing style takes you easily through the tragic and real environment of imediately post war Germany and Poland which is intertwined with a gruesome interpretation of the pied piper of Hamelyn fairy tale. The romantic historic and gritty historic stories trip along almost separately until they are brought together in the final conlusion. A great strangth of the book for me was that the narrators of both the post war reality and the fairy story are fallible scientists trying to piece together some meaning for both scenarios. It is debatable whether either of them are real scientists and also pointed out the ineptitude with which scientists attempt to tackle the world which reminded me of myself a great deal
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By A Customer on 10 Dec. 1998
Format: Paperback
The novelist deals with some of the issues tackled by Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' by entertwining and thus contrasting two historical timelines which when considered together give a powerful reading of the human condition and how it is altered by its environment. With an eye for historical detail, the author conjures a picture of the thirty years war which appears all too real; in contrast to his description of post second world war Europe which appears magical in nature. A recommended read for all fans of Aurther Miller and Peter Suskind.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 0 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Dark, disturbing and completely mesmerizing 9 Jun. 2000
By DMD - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Imagine a modernized Brothers Grimm tale for adults. Perfect for anyone that loved The Manchurian Candidate or Jacob's Ladder. Wallace leads the reader into Poland as well as a forgotten Hamelin to face the horrors of war, a mysterious disease, and a town under siege. Gruesome and gripping, Wallace cuts to the heart of the Pied Piper tale and exposes the frightening truth--the Piper is here to save us from ourselves.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Engaging to the end 18 July 2000
By Richard Krabbendam - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book was captivating from the beginning, and the author creates an eerie sense of anticipation that builds as the story unfolds.
For parents encouraging young teenage children to build their reading and reasoning abilities, this book could be quite an exciting challenge. The author has sufficient command of the power of language that he didn't have to stoop to using "strong" language to cover his own weakness. The few love scenes are fairly discreet as well.
The only small criticism I have is that the ending is not quite as surprising as the author would have us believe. Imagine sitting through a very well structured talk, only to have the conclusion be something a bit more obvious than you might have expected. Enjoyable all the same. If Mr. Wallace has more books out, I expect to read another soon.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
One Million Four Hundred Sixty Six Thousand and Twenty Three 20 Jun. 2000
By taking a rest - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As I write, the number above is the rank this book currently occupies as denoted by sales. There must have been a meeting on the "grassy knoll" of publishers to keep this brilliant work from us. The book has only recently been published here in the US, this month, but Europe has been enjoying this work of Mr. Wallace's since 1998 and in 5 languages!
The work is brilliant, for this to be a debut novel is only just this side of remarkable. The last premier of an Author that came close to this type of exciting discovery was "In The Fall" by Mr. Jeffrey Lent. The works do not share the same genre unless excellence has now been named as such.
The book moves like a wraith from the era of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church during the 30 years war to Eastern Europe as it stumbles from the nightmare of WW II into the evil existence that is Mr. Wallace's creation. The reading of this book is truly an experience, a dark and evil feeling that Edgar Allan Poe would leave a reader with. Reading this book is to almost be infected with one of the forms of dread that lies in wait for you in this work.
The seemingly few graphic descriptions of suffering almost pass you by, as unease leaves you cold and trying not to think about the implications you have read. There is nothing common in the manner the Author delivers his terror to you. Much of the book you are in a group listening to the protagonist recount his story many years after he believes he understands what it is that happened.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin is as evil in the hands of Mr. Wallace as that player of pipes has ever been. His memory alone tortures those in a holding camp in Tarutz Poland, indeed it drives one expected to be the most rational insane.
When the young Doctor enters Tarutz for the first time it is as follows "the despair hit me as soon as we entered, seeping in silently through the windows, through the leather soles of my boots, the wretched earth laden with poisonous seed. If hell has a garden, an underworld equivalent of Eden, we were now there."
Fantastic writing, great story, and the talent pours from the book as from one of the masters of the 19th Century.
You will love this book!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Spellbinding First Novel About Man's Inhumanity To Man! 29 Sept. 2000
By Barron Laycock - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In this spectacular, spellbinding, ethereal, macabre, and uneasy novel, a young Scottish doctor makes a journey of discovery, and what a wild trip it is! The young doctor takes a guided tour through the hell of postwar Europe, and with each step is sucked inexorably deeper into the human quagmire and deeper into discovering just how eternal man's inhumanity to man is. Set initially amid the rubble and ruins of postwar Berlin, with its mingling minions of desperate homeless, then moving on to all too typically horrifying war camp in the mud, decay, and filth of bombed-out post war Poland, the protagonist peals off selective layers of civilized behavior and mystery as he delves deeply into the human psyche and what makes man so consistently barbaric to his fellows. We learn quite quickly along with this young doctor the dangerous and deadly complexities of existence, and learn, to our horror, just how terrible and shocking this complexity can be. And thus the ceremony of innocence is drowned.
What the doctor discovers transpiring in the damp and dusky cellars of this wretched estate turned internment camp is surprising, shocking, illuminating, and provocative, and endlessly fascinating because one is often convinced that one thing is happening while on another level it appears that something quite different is actually transpiring. And yet these false leads often turn out not to be so false, or so clear cut, or so easy to either prove or discount. There is a powerful, intelligent and irresistible energy driving the narrative that spins you along despite your mounting trepidation as to where all this is leading you.
This is a whopper of a first novel, and one that works by flipping back and forth between the present day and a quite revealing and similar incident that occurred at the end of the Thirty Years War several centuries before. What author Christopher Wallace is really taking us on here, however, appears to be a express subway ride back down into the heart of human darkness, and what we see when we arrive is hard to describe, so dark and tentative are the shadows we can recognize. But what we see horrifies us.
This is a great book and a great read, and a terrific effort for someone entering the fray with their first novel. I read it very quickly and set it aside for another reading some weekend soon. I hope you can find yourself a copy and read it before it disappears from view. Believe me, this is not the last you will hear of this Wallace fellow! And by the way, what a wonderful property for a sophisticated and intelligent suspense/horror movie. Enjoy!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
weak ending after a good start 2 Feb. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Halfway through this book, I thought I'd found a classic - but I found the ending very weak. The author opts for some generic "we all have evil in us" preaching and the parallel between the post-WW2 and Hamelin stories is pointless - each story has the same general moral, so there's no reason to have both. The author has a good style, characterizes well and moves the story along effectively, but I agree with another reviewer who said there really isn't a sense of despair/hopelessness created
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