The Pied Piper's Poison Hardcover – 5 Jan 1998
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‘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
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.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.