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!