The Piano Player (Maybelle Wallis)

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Murderous secrets and lost love in Dublin during the Great Famine

In Dublin 1849, wealth contrasts savagely with squalid poverty, the bitter injustices of the Great Famine create a generation of the dispossessed, and hospitals are overwhelmed with pandemic disease. Deaths haunt every street, but some are not due to natural causes: patients who should have recovered are dying, and a violent gang murders in plain sight.

Jane, a theatrical pianist, has married Edmond Verity, a celebrated actor. When they perform in Dublin, her former lover, Dr William Doughty, knows he ought to keep his distance. When Edmond, a gambler struggling with his demons, becomes ill, he finds a physician whose first passion is his racing stable. As Jane’s fortunes reverse, she must find a way to survive.

Exploring a pivotal epoch in Irish history, this is an intricate novel of music and medicine, of trust and trickery, of destructive secrets and lost love: compelling, intriguing and poignant.


Maybelle Wallis writes short fiction and historical novels. A paediatrician who spent much of her career in England, she now works in Wexford, Ireland. She draws inspiration for her novels from medical history and from the gloomy and macabre past of hospitals as Victorian institutions. Her past experience of child protection informs her explorations of crimes disguised as innocent events.

Her debut novel Heart of Cruelty won Meet the Publisher at the 2020 Wexford Literary Festival, and was published by Poolbeg. The sequel, The Piano Player, comes out in August 2022.

Maybelle is a graduate of St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College in London and also studied Creative Writing with the Open University. She loves her adopted country, Ireland, with its turbulent history and its natural beauty. Her favourite county is, of course, Wexford, home to a thriving creative community.

Praise for Heart of Cruelty:
‘Dark and compelling…The underbelly of Victorian life.’ - Amazon reviewer
‘Set in the past but with themes that are relevant to today - love and the abuse of power.’ - Amazon reviewer
‘As relevant as ever in a world where people still live with the powerlessness of poverty and women are crushed by patriarchal attitudes’ Amazon reviewer
‘...thoroughly researched and vividly written through all the senses, convincingly evoking externally all the sounds, squalor and smells of a Victorian industrial city, and internally the feel and weight of clothing and the shabbiness of unloved rooms. The dénouement satisfies, and the ending is unexpectedly unconventional.’ Katherine Mezzacappa - Historical Novel Society.


Praise for ‘The Piano Player’:
‘Expertly researched, compellingly narrated - a terrific read’ - Patricia O'Reilly (The First Rose of Tralee, Orpen at War)
‘A rich tapestry of a novel…deception, past love, hard choices, amidst the cruelty of the times.’ - Jo Schaffel (Somewhere Besides Denver)
‘An entrancing and gripping story, beautifully told…a great historical thriller.’ - Susan Lanigan (White Feathers, Lucia's War, Unfortunate Stars)
‘Deliciously terrifying!’ - Annette Libeskind Berkovits (The Corset Maker)
‘Evocative and immersive…bringing the horror of the Famine alive.’ - LM West (This Fearful Thing, The Unnamed)