By Peter Tyrer

Format: Paperback

(6 customer reviews)

Publication Date: 28 Oct 2020


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Categories: Contemporary, Crime and Thrillers

ISBN: 9781913551117


It is 1967. A mysterious disease appears in an English town. People fall down suddenly, poleaxed, and many die. Is it caused by a bacterium, a virus, a poison? Nobody knows, and top doctors squabble over its cause. But then two junior doctors and a young anthropology student, who has recovered from the disease, join together.

The three investigators continue their work to find out the cause of the disease, a virus whose worst effects are only shown in those who are very anxious. They think they have found the cause and the solution. But will they be in time?

This is a gripping dystopian tale, very much relevant to events unfolding today and written by Emeritus Professor of Community Psychiatry at Imperial College, London, Peter Tyrer whose long-standing interest in the connections between mental and physical health informed the novel.

Peter Tyrer is Emeritus Professor of Community Psychiatry at Imperial College, London. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, a Fellow and Honorary Fellow (by Distinction) of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He is still actively researching environmental treatments for mental illness and health anxiety. These outcomes come to the fore in Poleaxed. He has published 620 original articles and thirty-five books, mainly for specialist readers but sometimes for the general public, and his current quest is to make the intricate details of medical and mental health practice more accessible to the general public, by writing fiction from the viewpoint of an insider, not a spectator or a voyeur. He has also written a play (The Death of King John) and an operetta about Robert and Elizabeth Browning. Peter lives in Newark, Notts.


Craigie McFie (Guest Review) - 27 Apr, 2021

Poleaxed by 'Poleaxed'
Reviewed in Australia on 10 December 2020
Poleaxed by ‘Poleaxed’

Another superb novel from an author whose word count must by now be reaching Shakespearean proportions. And in a miracle of timing, it was written prior to the impact of the coronavirus on the world.

It is essentially a medical detective story, tracing investigation of a mysterious illness and its impact on a small English town. Interleaved with the main narrative theme, the author addresses a number of other issues: the prejudice and bias against mental illness in the 1960s; the importance of communication in managing epidemics; the political and social interfaces with public health; the impact of interpersonal conflict in policy decision-making and the complexity of the relationship between phenomena in the psychosocial sphere and those in the brain. There are snapshots of history and anthropology and even space for death, violence and sex. One character’s emergence from adolescence to womanhood can be conceived as a metaphor for both the gradually increasing understanding of the disease and even for the changes occurring in society’s responses to mental illness.

Without spoiling the denouement, the resolution of the origins of the mysterious disease clearly reflects recent research on the inter-relationship of stress and the immune system.

Aspiring writers will envy the lucidity of the prose, the author’s easy humour and the poetic colour of his descriptions of the natural surroundings, a hangover, perhaps, of his early interest in botany. The writing is clear, crisp and refreshingly free of clichés, the metaphors are well-chosen and the use of ‘corroborative details add artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bland and unconvincing narrative’ (Not that the narrative is ‘bland and unconvincing’, but it is always a pleasure to quote Gilbert and the choices of details are telling.)

It is a significant problem for writers to convey the complexity of group interactions and here again the author excels. The depictions of meetings are insightful and well organized - no doubt this reflects the author’s experience in managing committees more than his psychiatric training. Contrary to popular belief, psychiatrists are not generally good at judging people or reading group behaviour and even Freud admitted to a lack of ‘Menschen kennt’.

It would be a poor reviewer who could not demonstrate sufficiently careful reading of a book to pick up minor flaws. This reviewer was alerted to an issue many years ago which at that time exposed his lack of a full classical education and which has rendered him irritatingly pedantic about it ever since. The Greek definite article is ‘hoi’, so to refer to ‘the hoi poloi’ is unnecessary. In addition, ‘poloi’ refers to the common people; the Greek upper classes were ‘hoi aristoi’ - Q.E.D (Latin!)

This is a fine read, enjoyable and informative and can be thoroughly recommended.

Philip Graham (Guest Review) - 09 Apr, 2021

This is a terrific read with unrivalled contemporary interest. A small town is hit by an epidemic , cause unknown. Managing the crisis pits doctors with different vested interests against each other. As they fight for professional dominance, a patient makes an unexpected, valuable contribution to understanding what is going on. Peter Tyrer, the author, as a psychiatrist with a special interest in health anxiety, is well equipped to describe the pattern of events with authority. As a bonus, he writes extremely well so that the reader is carried along, both fascinated by the issues raised and wanting to know what is going to happen next. A brilliant novel.

NetGalley review (Guest Review) - 09 Apr, 2021

Very interesting premise. I appreciated how the author used his knowledge in psychiatry to develop the plot. If only everyone in the real world had as much respect for each other as Medenby citizens did in adhering to a lock down at the beginning of the pandemic!

Nick Bouras (Guest Review) - 30 Apr, 2021

“POLEAXED” is a very captivating, enchanting and engaging story related to an epidemic of an unknown aetiology and treatment illness. It is written by an eminent psychiatrist and prolific writer on mental health and the social dimensions of psychiatry. Public health, psychiatry, stigma, medical politics and interpersonal relationships among others are included in an imaginative approach presenting a powerful plot. Attitudes to mental health are prominent and particularly on stigma not only by the public but also of fierce critics by the medical profession. The book was written before the pandemic of Covid19 and as such can be considered as prophetic. Peter Tyrer has succeeded to present a well-argued case of the psychosomatic nature of the illness under consideration. It is a very enjoyable reading.

John Patrick (Guest Review) - 09 Apr, 2021

With perfect timing, here is a prescient account of how a potentially serious epidemic in the UK is first confined to a provincial town and finally safely eliminated. Written in 2019 about a fictional 1960s event, Peter Tyrer shows experts at odds over the management of the outbreak, with personalities bristling with ambition and prejudice. And we read how the insights of the patients themselves, once they were sympathetically listened to, revealed the vital clues that explained why some people succumbed while others escaped.

All this in a story told with wit and pace, the main characters brought to life through making their fair share of mistakes as well as solving the epidemic’s central challenge: what is the cause, and how do we stop it?

I write this in November 2020 when the UK has still not mastered its contemporary COVID epidemic. Tyrer is a medic with long experience in psychiatry, politics and publicity. Officials and politicians in Ministry of Health and the Cabinet Office should all read this – and not wait to get it as a Christmas gift. And we can all use this novel to reflect on our own contribution to the people’s response to this contemporary threat to our society.

Neil (Guest Review) - 01 May, 2021

5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating! And very timely...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 November 2020
What a fascinating book! Obviously at the moment we all want to know how the medical world deals with the outbreak of a pandemic... and this book shows us. It's not about Covid 19 (it's set in 1967) but it's written by an insider and is meticulously researched. We get to see how Public Health, as a discipline, is key to fighting an outbreak and also a real sense of how other fields within medicine intervene. The book isn't in any way dry, though - we follow the pandemic mainly through the eyes of a wonderful heroine, Barbara, and it's great to get lost in her journey through the epidemic. The prose is wonderfully crisp and there are some nice funny moments too. Recommended!

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