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.
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.
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
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.