The Pied Piper of Hamelin story is given fresh breath in this inventive retelling by the master of the fractured fairy tale, Donna Jo Napoli. In medieval Hameln, the townsfolk can’t seem to cure the horrible disease that is felling both man and beast. Twelve year old narrator Salz is the only one who seems to be unaffected by this illness that looks like the dread Black Death, but isn’t. Could it be coming from the swarms of filthy rats that seem to be everywhere: in the beds, in the stables, even the soup pots? When a traveling musician offers to pipe the vermin away, the townsfolk happily agree. But when the fits of madness still plague the people after all the rats have been removed, they no longer believe that they owe the piper his due. Salz has all the pieces to the puzzle of the mysterious illness, if he could only put them together in time. This is a rich, gorily detailed story that is not only great hist. fic. but an absorbing mystery as well. An author’s note at the end puts it all together for readers who, like Salz, can’t quite figure it out.